This game started as a nightmare offensively, turned into a defensive hellscape, and wound up as the Wolves 14th loss in 19 games this season. Other than a strong stretch at the start of the 4th quarter during which the Wolves fought back from a double-digit deficit to briefly take the lead, very little went right in this one, which ended 118-114, but was controlled by the Knicks pretty much throughout.
With the exception of Zach LaVine, the Wolves could not hit the broadside of a barn to start this one—contested shots, shots in the paint, three-pointers, they were all off early, featuring an ice-cold Karl-Anthony Towns, who, coming off a 47 point eruption in their last game, started 1-7 from the field.
That put the Wolves in a hole from which they could not recover. The Knicks eventually found their rhythm offensively, behind more hot three-point shooting and the interior stlyings of Kyle O’Quinn, who more or less punked the Wolves bigs to the tune of 20 and 13 on 9-11 from the field, including seven man-sized offensive rebounds that exposed the Wolves’ interior weakness.
By the time the Wolves found their offense, this time primarily from the bench unit, the Knicks were comfortable, and the Wolves were never able to take them out of that comfort zone. A strong 47 points from the bench could not offset a defense that could not stop the Knicks for long stretches, or a combined 11-32 from Towns and Andrew Wiggins. A group of Kris Dunn, LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Nemanja Bjelica, and Cole Aldrich made the one significant Wolves run to start the fourth quarter against the Knicks reserves, eventually nosing out to a one point lead, the Knicks quickly re-asserted themselves with the return of Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose, who combined for 53 on the night. They pushed back out to a five point lead and held the Wolves at bay from there.
Friends, this is not good. We all expected better. 5-14 is an ugly record, especially given that the schedule has been rather kind through much of the early season. Yes, they are young, but they aren’t without experience. We can preach patience, and that’s really all there is at this point, but let’s not sugarcoat this: it’s not a good basketball team, the performance thus far has been disappointing, and they don’t seem to be getting any better at the moment.
Let’s bullet point some stuff:
- After an invisible performance at Target Center on Wednesday, the bench showed up, at least offensively today, led by Nemanja Bjelica (17 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists) and Shabazz Muhammad (14.)
- Those who have argued that Ricky Rubio should play more with the bench unit got some fodder today in the first quarter. Down 24-8, Thibs pulled Towns, LaVine, and Gorgui Dieng. Rubio immediately had the ball in his hands—made a jumper off a pick-and-roll, found a cutting Muhammad off another P-n-R on the next possession, then found Muhammad again after driving under the basket.
- Even so, Rubio more or less was exactly what I wrote about earlier today. Not utilized, and not effective.
- Cole Aldrich had perhaps his best outing of the season, finishing with 10 and 12 in 27 minutes. Gorgui Dieng was in foul trouble and ineffective all night, and played only 18 minutes.
- The Wolves are on a dreaded road back to back, and face the Hornets in Charlotte tomorrow.