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Wolves Fall to Nuggets 78-74 Despite Pekovic's Successful Return

And another one. This game disintegrated fast in the 2nd half as the Wolves managed 30 points after the break.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

As it turns out, Ricky Rubio was wrong. After saying they hit bottom after the game in Philadelphia, tonight's 9 point 4th quarter showed that there are yet more depths for this team. The Wolves offense completely fell apart in the 2nd half of this ball game, during which they managed to score only 30 points and see the only slightly more competent Nuggets end their six game losing streak in an ugly 78-74 game at Target Center.

One of the themes of Barbara Tuchman's brilliant The Guns of August, which I just read, is how various commanders insisted on sticking with certain strategies and tactics despite information suggesting they wouldn't work, and in fact successfully ignoring or misinterpreting information in order to keep to their preferred methods.

That seems appropriate tonight, as we once again saw the Wolves more or less ignore the 3 point line (11 attempts, one a last second heave), against a team that took twice that many. Once again, we saw the Wolves force the ball to Andrew Wiggins moving away from the basket, leading to regular double teams which he can't handle (4 TOs) and poor shots (4-14).

Once again with the game on the line we saw several mid-range clanks coming out of Sam Mitchell timeouts. And once again we saw a team that does not value effort on the defensive glass.

Mitchell clearly wanted this one, as he played both Tayshaun Prince (33) and Kevin Garnett (21) heavy minutes. Those are the guys he trusts, and he desperately tried to win this one. But when both Wiggins and Zach LaVine are mired like they are currently (a combined 4-19), it's nearly impossible for this team to find enough offense.

Altogether it was a completely forgettable night except for the return of Nikola Pekovic to the Wolves lineup for the first time since last March.  Pek looked much like his old self in limited minutes tonight, scoring 12 points on 3-4 from the field and 6-6 from the line in 16 minutes of action. He was clearly a bit rusty, but his clashes with his fellow Balkan centers--Nikola Jokic and especially Jusuf Nurkic were gladitorial in their fierceness. The banging Pek and Nurk engaged in was amazing, as I put it during the game:

It really was great to see the big man back in action, throwing his weight around and getting buckets. I have no idea how long it's going to last, but I'm going to enjoy every minute of it. He brings something to the Wolves that nobody else does, and he's an incredibly fun guy to root for.

Other than that, it was a pretty standard issue Wolves disaster.

A few notes:

  • Mitchell isn't doing Wiggins many favors, but still, a lot of that is on him. Teams are doubling not because the fear him, but because they know he can't deal with it.
  • At halftime, the 4 Wolves wings had a total of 1 rebound. They finished with 8 total in 96 minutes, which just isn't good enough.
  • Zach LaVine's slump continues -- 1 for 5 from the field in his return to the point guard spot. He did only commit one turnover and his performance seemed a bit less messy than they have recently (in part because he didn't shoot it much), but he remains lost.
  • Gorgui Dieng failed to score in 27 minutes. That's odd.
  • The benches were a huge factor tonight, as the entire Wolves bench was minus, while the Nuggets bench was all plus. Nurkic, after struggling in the first half, found his groove in the 2nd and finished with 15, 10 and 5 blocks.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 14 and 14, and was the Wolves leading scorer, which is all you need to know about this one.
  • The Wolves limited the Nuggets to 78 points and under 40% shooting, and I thought the defensive effort was there for the most part.
  • The Wolves had multiple opportunities to tie the game in the last couple of minutes, but a couple ill-advised Mitchell timeouts followed by attempted Wiggins isolations led nothing.
I'm running out of things to say. Have at it.