NEW ORLEANS — “We need to find a way to get back on our feet. Once we get back on our feet and string a few wins together, get a little confidence, right now we’re a little down. We just gotta rely on each other. Not one person’s gonna be able to do it. I think that collectively as a group... you know, ask Brandon [Rush], who won 73 games last year, you gotta get everybody in it. Everybody’s gonna have to know their defensive schemes, and we just gotta collectively find a way to grit out wins, and right now we haven’t been able to do that.”
Cole Aldrich explained the state of the Minnesota Timberwolves better than I possibly could have after another third quarter meltdown, another dispiriting beating, this time at the hands of Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans, 117-96. It was another game in which much of it showed promise, but one single enormous run put the game totally out of reach.
“We gotta play tougher. Same thing. Foul trouble, eight point lead, don’t close out the second quarter well, snowball third quarter... We’re not playing any defense. Can’t win. You’re gonna be shorthanded with foul trouble, and you can’t count on your defense, you can’t count on your rebounding, you can’t win.”
While Aldrich summed up the overall state of affairs, coach Tom Thibodeau gave his typically succinct summary of what went wrong. The eight point lead evaporated after Karl-Anthony Towns picked up his third foul to match both Gorgui Dieng and Nemanja Bjelica. All three of them had been tasked with attempting to rein in Davis, who scored 21 of his eventual 45 points in the first quarter and led the game-breaking run with eight straight points in the third quarter.
“I think everybody has to look at the mirror and see if they’re bringing everything in the game. I mean, talking personally, I’m not doing it and I have to do it more. I have to be more aggressive, I have to find myself again and lead this team like I’m supposed to.”
Ricky Rubio singled himself out as not meeting his own expectations. Rubio was a team-worst -31 and did not score, but did have five assists and two steals. These runs continue to happen against the Wolves’ starting five, and while it is hard to evaluate leadership as a tangible value, the continued failures of discipline and “toughness”, as Thibodeau put it, point to a leadership vacuum at some level.
“I think some games we’ve just missed open shots. Some games we just haven’t played as good of defense as we did in the first half. Sometimes it’s just not going for guys. I think as a bench and as a starter, I think all the guys that are playing, we just need to find a way to get through that stagnant time, get stops, make sure that our defense gets out to offense, get easy buckets, all those things we’re not doing right now.”
If ever there were a night of it “just not going for guys,” as Aldrich put it, Andrew Wiggins’ staggeringly bad 2/19 shooting performance tonight was the pinnacle of it. Wiggins took ten shots in the third quarter, which the Wolves lost 36-18, and hit just one. His final attempt, after all the damage was done and the clock was winding down, was a drive into the lane that was easily rejected by Terrence Jones. It really fit just how bad the quarter and night had gone for him.
“...coming out here and just getting beat.”
“We got beat, that’s really the point-blank of it.”
“Same thing, different day, so, gotta fix it.”
The quotes that lead this recap come from Towns. This was about all he had to say afterwards. Normally full of answers of some kind, even after every tough defeat, tonight he had very little to say. However, how much more is there to say? The Wolves got beat. Same thing, different day, so, they have to fix it.