The Timberwolves seemed like they were going to hold on throughout this one as the Mavericks didn't come close to leading the game till near the end of the fourth quarter. However, in true Timberwolves fashion, costly turnovers and poor shooting at the end of the fourth quarter and in overtime let the game slip away till the Mavericks held a double-digit victory at the final buzzer. Before jumping in to the recap, Karl-Anthony Towns straight up dominated in this game. He finished with 27 points, 17 boards, 6 blocks, and 3 assists. It was the best I have seen him play since the game against Denver back at the end of October.
The Mavericks are strangely somewhat of an inverse Timberwolves. The team "rebuilds" seemingly every year, surrounding Dirk Nowitzki (who missed this game) with a cast from the veritable island of misfit toys. I had not realized Charlie Villanueva was still playing in the NBA, yet he started in Dirk's place and made several key plays in the first half. Even JaVale McGee looked competent at times, as he attacked Towns several times with all of his fury.
Where the Mavericks are opposite-Wolves is that they focus on rebuilding through free agency, confident that their system can fit in a catch-all of NBA rotation players as the wizard Rick Carlisle keeps on winning. While this approach has its hiccups such as losing Tyson Chandler after the first championship, the Rondo mishap, the DeAndre incident, and their lack of future planning after Dirk retires, the Mavericks are always in the playoff hunt.
On the other side, the Timberwolves seem content to develop their system around their players. The primary focus of "development" has led to several players being forced into situations that they are not prepared for and learning through trial by fire. This continued throughout tonight as again the Andrew Wiggins isolation plays were the Wolves primary option during the fourth quarter.
This year has seen a Wolves team that has greatly regressed after a promising start. We can't help but think that the level of talent is discordant from the win total. This is especially true in comparison with last year, where health was the deciding factor in the Timberwolves tanking initiative (I like to think Flip had a secret folder in his desk with that name. There would only be one page in the folder, "Don't let Ricky play!"). But this year is forcing us to come to terms with the fact that one of two things must be true. Either the parts aren't as good as we think, or the person putting them together is doing so incorrectly.
It's entirely possible both may be true in this case, but it is still a realization that has to be understood in comparison to a team like the Mavericks who are very much a greater sum than their parts.
Alright, enough philosophizing and too on-the-nose metaphors. Let's talk some basketball.
Andrew Wiggins had a really strong first quarter and finished with with 23 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists. The rebound total was great to see for him and while he was relatively ineffective during the 4th quarter and overtime, most of the ideas of what he was doing were correct. This right idea, wrong execution, extends to Shabazz Muhammad who I found hard to fault for his shot selection during crunch time. He happened to miss basically 5 threes in a row and then pressed too hard, which led to a key turnover in OT, but I liked what he represented. He also ended up team worst -17 on the night other than Rubio's -18, but the plus minus is all over the place this game and I don't really know what to do with it.
Ricky Rubio's shooting was killing us tonight in the fourth quarter. He also committed an uncharacteristic 5 turnovers to his 11 assists. This was one of those games where we are not competitive without Ricky playing, but he had a few missed shots at the end of the game that were backbreaking. Not one of his finer games.
Karl-Anthony Towns was flat out amazing. He was matched up with Zaza Pachulia throughout most of the night, who is no defensive slouch, or Towns was often playing the 4 with Nikola Pekovic running at the center position. There were so many great Towns moments that it's hard to pick out just one, but in the third quarter there was one possession on defense where Towns had 2 blocks sending the ball out of bounds, then I believe Deron Williams drove for a final shot of the possession and Towns forced him into an air ball. It was a possession completely erased just by Towns.
On the Mavericks end, Chandler Parsons demolished the Wolves to the tune of 30 points with 3-6 from three-point range. The rest of the team's scoring was evenly distributed, with 5 other Mavericks scoring between 12 and 15 points.
The Mavericks as a whole shot only 5-25 from three, which was a big reason why the Wolves stayed in the game during the second half. The third quarter was particularly ugly, which the Wolves won 18-15. At around 9 minutes in the 4th quarter the Mavericks had been shooting 22% in the second half.
This one was an unfortunate loss, but one that looked like it was coming throughout the second half. Several of the Wolves looked flat out tired playing on the second night of the back-to-back. There wasn't too much learned tonight other than a reiteration of a couple lessons we already knew. Firstly that our initial impressions of this team were incorrect, for a couple of reasons. Secondly, and more simply, Towns is awesome.