MINNEAPOLIS - Basketball is fun. At least on nights, and against competition, like this. The Minnesota Timberwolves took on the Charlotte Hornets’ B-Squad in the preseason finale this evening and were generally dominant in every way. The game was essentially over by halftime with the Wolves leading 61-44, however, because of rules and regulations, they had to play all four quarters. Until the NBA installs the mercy rule, bloggers will be required to sit through fourth quarters like this one.
Some general thoughts before we get into the breakdown. As John Meyer pointed out in his recap of the Grizzlies game earlier this week, Tom Thibodeau is a terrifying individual in-game. With a less-than-capacity crowd at the Target Center tonight, you could hear every bark he bellowed out. The man definitely has an abusive relationship with his stress ball. Hopefully, Stress Ball will take the brunt of the damage, rather than any of the players on the roster or Thibs’ vocal chords.
Andrew Wiggins didn’t play for the second straight game with the rarely used DNP - AR decision (that’s allergic reaction for those who are unfamiliar). The source of the allergens is somewhat mysterious, but there was talk of swollen eyes at some point by the less-than-stellar announcing crew. The Wolves offense didn’t seem to need Wiggins too much tonight, however, churning out 92 points through three quarters. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for Wigs and a comments section that doesn’t rush to judgement on his role in the offense too quickly.
Minnesota - Rubio, Lavine, Rush, Dieng, Towns
Charlotte - Walker, Belinelli, Kidd-Gilchrist, Kaminsky, Hibbert
The Wolves started the game fast. Fast, as in, committing stupid fouls, sloppy turnovers, rushing shots, and generally not running a very patient offense. Throughout the entirety of the first half, the Wolves offense felt rushed, often times with a single pass or a single pick leading to a shot attempt.
Thankfully, Charlotte seemed even worse. Starter Frank Kaminsky committed three fouls in the first quarter and would not return to the game after leaving with a foot sprain. Without a few threes and an overabundance of free throws, Charlotte would have been out of the game even earlier.
The Wolves started to pick things up by turning to their large KAT midway through the first. Karl-Anthony Towns, high on catnip, went absolutely nuts in the later half of the quarter, doing things like this:
Oh, and this:
Oh and maybe a little of this:
He’s an absolute freak of nature. He was putting playoff-level effort into the first quarter of a preseason game, simply outworking every player on the Charlotte roster. Thibs and Ricky weren’t running too many offensive sets specifically for him. KAT was just hustling on the boards, in transition, and creating his own shot. Score at the end of the first: Wolves 30, Charlotte 25.
The second unit entered towards the end of the first and continued onto the second. Bazz, Dunn, Aldrich, Bjelica, and Rush continued the momentum, not with a more efficient offense, but a completely stifling defense. Every piece of the second unit played their role.
Cole Aldrich - Play defense: In one sequence, Aldrich blocked a ball out of bounds, blocked the next shot on Charlotte’s inbounds play, and started the break with a nice outlet pass. He’s also from Minnesota. People forget that. Other than the play-by-play team that may choose to mention that fact every game.
Brandon Rush - Hit threes: Rush received the most minutes (31) of any of the Wolves tonight. What did he do with his time? How about going four for four from three and a somewhat healthy +37. We’ll have our stats department check that, but I’m pretty sure that’s good.
Shabazz Muhammad - Have no bodily control: Can we name Bazz as the captain of Team Hustle? He’s like a fullback on the basketball court. He doesn’t dance around, looking for an opening through the line. He knows where the basket is and charges at it, whether or not there’s a person, or persons, standing in his way. Yes, it’s like watching a car accident at times, but it still can translate to 17 points on 60 percent shooting on occasion. The ugly of this was that he committed four turnovers, but if we throw that fact into the Vegter21 Spin Zone, his four turnovers meant that this next guy didn’t commit the most turnovers in the game. Big, big congrats to Kris Dunn!!!
Kris Dunn - Don’t be awful: There’s been some hand-wringing on the Kris Dunn front throughout the preseason. He’s looked...not great. But tonight, he was not awful. Major plus in the “not a bust” column. The defensive prowess discussed during his draft analysis showed up, leading to his first field goal in the friendly confines. Good to have you, Mr. Dunn.
By the end of the second quarter, the Wolves were up by 17 points and their bench had outscored Charlotte 22-10. While I’m extremely excited for the continued maturation of the starters, I think the bench, and added depth, will have at least as big of an impact on the Timberwolves improvement this season. One game is a small sample size, but they looked really good tonight.
Karl-Anthony Towns committed an early foul to start the second half, giving him five for the game. He was pulled and would not return. No need to panic, fair readers, because the third quarter would become the Ricky/Bjelly show.
It was Ricky’s birthday today. As a true point guard, Ricky doesn’t receive gifts, he dishes them out. He went old school in the third, treating us with some vintage no-look passes, perfect lobs, and even some proficient finishing at the rim. I found this gift particularly tasty.
This sequence all started with Bjelica. He made a corner three, blocked a shot on the defensive end, and hustled down the court to receive the dime from Rubio. I’m officially on the John Meyer sponsored Bjelly Hype Train after tonight. He has a really quick release on his shot, looked way more decisive and confident than last year, and didn’t foul out in the first quarter. All major improvements over his rookie campaign. Score at the end of the third; Minnesota 92 - Charlotte 56.
Adreian Payne time:
Tyus Jones, Payne, Jordan Hill, and even Rasual Butler got playing time in the fourth. I won’t speculate on what that means for roster cuts, I’ll leave that responsibility to the comment section.
The game ended with the Wolves winning by 35 points, the second highest margin of victory during preseason history. They held Charlotte to 31.6 percent shooting and just 74 points. Yes, the Hornets were without some of their regular contributors (Marvin Williams, Nicolas Batum, Spencer Hawes, and Cody Zeller) but this was an absolute beat down and a perfect appetizer for the start of the regular season.
Excitement levels are turned up to eleven. Can’t wait for next Wednesday.