The first time the Wolves touched the ball tonight, Zach LaVine grabbed a steal but threw it away trying to pass up court. The second time the Wolves had the ball, Ricky Rubio drove into the paint in semi-transition, kicked the ball to Andrew Wiggins on wing, who swung it to LaVine in the left corner where he buried a three.
That pretty much set the tone and tells the story of tonight's ball game, as the Wolves had one of their best three point shooting games of the year--their 11 makes were a season high--but also turned it over a disastrous 22 times. In the end, their offense stagnated in the 4th quarter and they fell to the Grizzlies 109-104.
The Wolves went with the starting lineup they won with against Toronto just before the All-Star break, with LaVine at the shooting guard next to Rubio, Wiggins at the three and Gorgui Dieng and Karl-Anthony Towns up front. This is probably their best offensive lineup, and they were able to score through much of the game. Zach LaVine was hot through the first three quarters, in large part because he was getting good shots. He made a second corner three that was almost a carbon copy of the first early in the game, got a couple easy ones in transition off Rubio passes,and generally got good looks mostly on catch and shoots that he was able to knock down.
Unfortunately, the Wolves for some reason revert to terrible offense late in close games, where they force the ball to Wiggins or LaVine regardless of court position, and fail to get into any kind of flow. This cost them, as both guys began to hoist tough shots, and inevitably LaVine went off the boil, missing four of his last five. Overall it was a fantastic game for LaVine, who made four of his six three point attempts and finished with 22 points, and was limited early only by his foul trouble that sent him to the bench and held him to 26 minutes on the night.
Defensively their struggles continued, as the Grizz shot 49% from the field. Mike Conley was rolling and finished with 25, Zach Randolph overpowered Gorgui Dieng at times and finished with 17, and Vince Carter made a 70 footer to end the third quarter and pull the Grizz to within 5 to highlight his 15 point night.
It's clear that the Wolves have decided it's time to play the young guys, as neither Tayshaun Prince nor Andre Miller played tonight. Tyus Jones got the back up point guard minutes, which, if it continues, will effectively keep the Wolves from winning too many games down the stretch. The bench unit--mostly Jones, Kevin Martin, Shabazz Muhammad, and Adriean Payne, had a good run in the first half when Martin and Muhammad made some shots, but were a disaster in the 2nd half, primarily thanks to atrocious defense.
I have hopes for Jones, but he's badly over matched at this point. He has a lot of size and athletic shortcomings, and it's going to take a while for him to figure out how to compensate.
Meanwhile, the starting unit didn't help matters in the 2nd quarter, fumbling away a lead in large part thanks to poor play from Ricky Rubio, who missed three shots and turned it over twice in the last six minutes of the half. They redeemed themselves in the third quarter, however, getting into a much better flow and retaking the lead. Unfortunately it wouldn't last.
- The Wolves made all 31 of their free throw attempts on the night.
- The game was sort of odd in that no real offensive focal point emerged. All four of the non-Rubio starters plus Muhammad took between 9 and 15 FGAs. Overall I think balance is good, but I also think it added to the confusion at the end of the game.
- Can I say again I hate they offense they get into in the last five minutes of games? Wiggins got to the line (dubiously) a few times, but there was a flurry of TOs and poor shots as a result of not actually running anything other than Wiggins and LaVine desperately trying to get some space to get a shot off.
- Adreian Payne. Shudder. And on his birthday too.