On the bright side, the Wolves only lost the third quarter by three points tonight, which is a significant improvement.
The Wolves still lost to the Brooklyn Nets on the road, however, falling 119-110. Their defense was atrocious, allowing the Nets to get open three point looks early, and to the rim late. They could never solve the dribble penetration from a group of Nets guards and wings that will not be confused with All-Stars, and Brook Lopez punished the Wolves inside and out, finishing with 26 on 10-16 from the field.
This one feels particularly bad, in part because the Wolves didn’t have that dominant stretch to enjoy as they did in the first five games of the season. They got off to a poor start, and clawed their way back in. Down one at halftime, they could never really overcome a small but persistent Nets advantage, because they could never get enough stops to go on a real run.
Tom Thibodeau was desperately searching for a lineup that would work, and wound up finishing the game with a small group of Tyus Jones, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad, and Karl-Anthony Towns. I’m not clear on why he left Muhammad in the game at the four spot; it wasn’t as if he was having a big night. (He finished 3-12 from the field.) And the downside was that they did not have enough size to protect the rim.
The desperation was borne of the Wolves porous defense, which Thibs has not yet been able to fix. Six games into the season, and the Wolves simply cannot stop anyone. This needs to get better soon or this is going to be hugely disappointing.
It’s also becoming clear that Kris Dunn is not ready to play a big role, and the Wolves need Ricky Rubio back on the court. Tyus Jones played 32 minutes tonight, replacing Dunn in both the first and third quarters and playing the rest of both halves. Jones had probably his best game as a pro, posting a quad nickel, with 12 points, seven assists, five boards and five steals. He made some big plays defensively, and the offense just flows much better when he’s in there.
That said, I still think the second half featured a lack of ball movement as players tried to do things on their own, but the offense was not really the problem tonight.
Andrew Wiggins rebounded from a poor game against the Nuggets to set a career high with 36 points tonight. It was a somewhat odd game for him, however, as he was a monster from beyond the arc, making six of seven three-point attempts, but struggled badly at the rim, finishing 13-29 overall (and 4-8 at the free throw line, including two late misses that would have tied the game.)
- Karl-Anthony Towns had a huge first half but was quiet in the second, in part due to foul trouble. He picked up his fourth in the third quarter, and then his fifth early in the fourth.
- Gorgui Dieng struggled defensively, and committed four fouls in only 19 minutes of playing time.
- The Wolves made 12 threes on 43 percent, dominated the offensive glass by +10, and won the turnover battle, and still lost the game.
- Tomorrow night in Orlando