It was no sure thing that the Wolves were going to prevail against the Lakers on Sunday evening. After all, winning was something the Wolves had only accomplished twice in eight tries this season. Oddsmakers only favored the Wolves by one point, and that line was set before news broke that Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad and Brandon Rush would be unavailable.
Minneapolis’ original franchise had to be confident in their return, having won their last two games, including a 126-99 drubbing of the Pelicans in New Orleans on Saturday. Ironically, the Wolves gave the Lakers a taste of their own medicine, beating them by an almost identical score: 125-99.
Ricky Rubio looked close to 100% as he established the tone early, scoring 9 points on 4-5 shooting, to go along with 3 assists and a steal in the 1st quarter.
- Drive and finish through contact from D’Angelo Russell
- Display impressive chemistry with Nemanja Bjelica, setting him up with a behind-the-back pass
- Initiate a fast break with a steal, and then nail a three pointer (assisted by Bjelly)
- Penetrate and create with a no-look pass to Cole “The Trebuchet” Aldrich
Due to injuries, Nemanja Bjelica got the chance to start and took full advantage of it. Perhaps starting alongside Ricky gave him the jolt he needed, as Bjelly seemed to play the game with a sense of joy we haven’t seen from him in a while.
On the offensive end, Bjelica finished with a career high 24 points on 9-15 shooting, including 5-8 from three point range, along with 8 rebounds, 3 assists and only one turnover.
Bjelly was just as impressive on defense, tallying 3 steals and a block, displaying quick hands and toughness while challenging the Lakers big men inside. He only picked up 3 fouls in 41 minutes, which is significant, especially considering that he was plagued by foul trouble last year (averaging almost 3 fouls in less than 15 minutes per game).
- Strip Nick Young to initiate a fast break finished by Andrew Wiggins
- Elegantly execute a play evoking memories of the 2014 Spurs
- Repeatedly make the Lakers pay for double-teaming Andrew Wiggins
- Mercilessly run the score up at the end of the game
As amazing and Ricky and Bjelly were on Sunday, however, the night belonged to Andrew Wiggins. The Lakers had no answers for Wiggins, and he confidently and surgically picked their defense apart, hitting 67% of his shots, and getting to the line 22 times on his way to scoring a career-high 47 points.
All the Lakers could do is immediately trap him every time he touched the ball, allowing ‘Drew to pick up 3 assists and make the game easy for his teammates.
- Continue to knock down threes at a league-leading 58% rate
- Deny Brandon Ingram’s jumpshot and fly down the court for a transition layup
- Go to work in the post against the Lakers’ overmatched guards and wings
- Continue to confidently close quarters with cold-blooded, pull-up threes
- Craftily draw a three point shooting foul by elevating and exaggerating the instant he feels a hand on his back
- Find Bjelly when the Lakers pressure him
- Slam and jam
Karl-Anthony Towns had a “quiet” 22 and 12 night, but was uncharacteristically inefficient, missing 4 free throws and hitting less than a third of his field goals. Still, he displayed a rare combination of skills for a big man. In the following clip, he spins and wins with with a pretty hook shot, and then gets a rebound, dribbles down court and hits a spot-up three pointer.
The Lakers were simply not able to match the Wolves’ energy tonight, and not a single one of their players scored over 20 points. You know it ain’t your night when even Adreian Payne is making it rain!
Ciao for now, Canis Hoopers!