MINNEAPOLIS – Entering Saturday night the Bucks and Wolves sat last in their respective divisions, both aiming to turn things around in the new year.
The Wolves got off to a quick start at Target Center, leading 28-15 after the first quarter as they held Milwaukee without a field goal until John Henson connected on a hook shot with 3:21 remaining in the opening frame.
It was the longest field goal drought by any NBA team to start a game since Dec. 20, 2006 (via Timberwolves PR) when New Orleans hit its first field goal at the 2:42 mark in Orlando.
Milwaukee responded in the second quarter (29-19) and went on to outscore the Wolves 80-57 over the rest of the game, including an 11-0 run to start the fourth. That run pushed the score to 83-70 and felt a lot like the loss to Indiana one week ago. It was another complete fourth quarter meltdown at home.
Sam Mitchell went with the youth again to start the fourth, a decision that ended up backfiring in a major way. Milwaukee completely feasted on the Wolves to quickly distance themselves.
19, 20, 20, 20, 23 = ages of the Wolves currently on the floor as Milwaukee goes on 7-0 run to start the 4th. Tyus/LaVine/Wiggins/Towns/Bazz— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) January 3, 2016"We just relaxed. We played like a bunch of individuals tonight," Shabazz Muhammad said.
Afterwards, Mitchell talked about his decision to leave the young guys on the floor.
"I left them out there for a reason," he said. "I was hoping to let embarrassment set in on how they were playing, on how Milwaukee was out working them."
Then he said, "There have been nights where I wanted to crawl under the floor and dig a hole and crawl home, that's how bad I played. But those nights stuck with me, and some nights, you know, coach left me out there and he'd tell me at the end 'I left you out there because...don't let this happen to you again.' Sometimes you gotta leave them out there."
Sam Mitchell on the offense:
"We didn't have [Kevin] Garnett and Tayshaun [Prince] in the game [after the Wolves started 22-5]. They set screens, they move the ball, they make hard cuts, they know their run, they execute, they understand what's a good shot and bad shot, they have spacing. All the things that we work with our young guys on every single day."
On Karl-Anthony Towns' game:
"I just thought [Karl] missed shots tonight. I thought the disappointment with him was that he's got to learn that when things are not going for you offensively, you've got to do things defensively. It was probably his worst game defensively as far as carrying out his assignments. I think he got caught up, he's so used to making that elbow jump shot, and when he started missing it, I just think he got so concerned that we just kept telling him, ‘you've got to play both ends, you've got to forget that'."
On the Bucks not scoring in the first nine minutes:
"With Ricky [Rubio], Tayshaun and KG, I think you guys have seen us play enough to where you understand that those three guys... Once we get past those three guys, we've got Tyus [Jones], Zach [LaVine], Shabazz [Muhammad], we've got [Gorgui Dieng], we've got all young guys out there on the second unit. The execution, picks, spacing, timing, that's all we do with our young guys. That's what we work on every day. Habits. They've just got bad habits."
Shabazz Muhammad on the change in momentum:
"Everybody played like they didn't like each other. I don't know what was going on. We just had to go out there and compete. We were up 22-5, we could have put our feet down and that's what happens when you relax."
"I just think it was aggressiveness. I just think it was a total meltdown by us, I thought they were playing the same. We held them to 30-some percent (shooting) in the first half, and then in the second half, we just came down. It was really a meltdown and something we can't [let] happen if we want to win games."
Andrew Wiggins on the disappointing fourth quarter showing:
"It's never good not winning at home. No one likes to lose, it's embarrassing to lose at home. Whether you lose by one or 20, it's whatever when you lose at home, you know it's not good for you."
On the change in momentum:
"They got on a run and just kept going with it. We've just got know how to keep a lead. That's what basketball comes down to... just end the game while we can early."
Ricky Rubio on the fourth quarter:
"We lost that game. You've got to give Milwaukee credit, but we started the game very good, following the game plan then we played too cool. We think we don't need to be aggressive all the time. This league is for men and we weren't men tonight. We blew a big lead and it cost us the game."
On losing leads:
"We're going to learn but like I said, I know we're young, but in this league there is not a lot of opportunities. Who really makes it is the ones that we know really want to do something. Tonight is a bad game."
On developing the young guys:
"At the end of the day, you've got to win. I know we're building something here and we have to be patient and that's not the way. When you're up 17, you want to win by 20 or 22. Instead of that, we're acting like we're too cool."
- Rubio finished with 14 points (4-8 shooting and 2-of-3 from 3-point range) seven assists, six rebounds, and three steals in 33 minutes. He was clearly disgusted with the way the team played after the first quarter.
- Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 10 rebounds and three blocks, but as Mitchell indicated in his presser (below) it was his worst game defensively and he couldn't hit the mid-range shots we've grown accustomed to see him nail with great frequency. Towns shot 4-17 in 26 minutes. While he's clearly not a normal rookie, tonight was a rare rough performance. It happens. KAT is still unbelievable.
- Muhammad finished with 12 points in 26 minutes off the bench, his second straight game in double-digits, but 10 of those points came in the first 9 minutes when he entered the game early due to Wiggins' quick two fouls. This is only the second time Muhammad has scored 10+ points in back-to-back games this season.
- Greg Monroe finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds (four offensive) on his way to his 16th double-double of the season. He really hurt the Wolves in the paint in only 26 minutes. Meanwhile, John Henson scored 15 points off the bench, including eight points on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting during a 2:24 span (10:38 to 8:14) in the fourth. The two combined to shoot 13-20.
- Milwaukee finished 8-of-16 from three-point range. Khris Middleton and Jerryd Bayless had three triple apiece, but combined to make only two other shots on their way to 8-24. The Wolves were 3-14 from deep, once again losing the 3-point battle. In other breaking news, the sky is blue.
- O.J. Mayo was ejected in the first quarter.
OJ Mayo was T'd during a timeout, had to be restrained by coaches & teammates when he was given a 2nd & ejected pic.twitter.com/oJ6bZKg5HH— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) January 3, 2016
OJ Mayo on his ejection and tonight's win https://t.co/TiKcnX7Gfz— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) January 3, 2016
If you would like to listen to Mitchell's entire presser, you can do so below!
Sneak peek: early on he gets upset about the AAU basketball circuit and the bad habits some Wolves players have acquired, which he's trying to break. He said some interesting things about Towns later on and also discussed the motivations behind leaving the young Wolves out there to make mistakes in crucial points of the game, even if the results are tough to stomach in the moment, to ultimately learn from (because sometimes you have to fail to truly learn).
"If I thought we were gonna win the championship this year, I would coach the team a little differently," Mitchell says at one point. "Sometimes part of your learning is to get embarrassed a little bit."
His AAU rant and habitual "we're young and inexperienced and development doesn't happen overnight" discussion really just distracts from another complete meltdown by his team. It's interesting to hear some specific concerns he has, but altogether his presser greatly ignores the awkward lineup decision to start the fourth quarter, though he briefly touches on why Tyus Jones and young guys are seeing critical minutes as the franchise sets their eyes on the future (which is not disagreeable from my point of view), but I would have liked to hear him take at least some ownership over the loss instead of largely criticizing bad habits that coaches before him have allegedly ingrained into the young players. Is that the biggest reason they have blown huge leads and can't finish off opponents when the game is in the palm of their hands?