The Wolves, looking half buried at several points late in this one, somehow survived in Washington tonight, pushing the game to double overtime where they hung on to win 132-129.
I'll say this for this iteration of the Timberwolves: They compete. This was a game the Wizards needed a lot more than the Wolves did, as they are desperately fighting for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, they were at home, and they built leads in the fourth quarter and both overtimes, but the Wolves would not fold, with several players making huge plays throughout the end game to put them in position to win.
Frankly, I was prepared to rip into the team for what was atrocious defense for much of the night, but I can't very well go that route after a spectacular effort got them the win.
I guess I'll start here: Down four late in the first overtime, in part due to his turnover off an inbounds pass, Zach LaVine buried two monster three pointers in the last 22 seconds of the period to send it to double overtime. It was utterly representative of what he's been doing lately and I was a little surprised to find myself not at all surprised they went in. On the other end, Bradley Beal missed a shot at the buzzer of the first overtime that would have won it for the Wizards, and on we went.
Beal got hot in the 2nd overtime, making two threes off the bat, but Karl-Anthony Towns answered with one of his own. Later, Gorgui Dieng made two straight short jumpers to give the Wolves a one point lead, and two missed free throws by Marcin Gortat with 15 seconds left led to a Towns lay in and ultimately a missed Jared Dudley three at the buzzer and the Wolves escaped with a win.
Like many recent Wolves games, this one featured a ton of offense but not much defense. The teams were tied at 62 at the half, entirely on merit, as stops were as rare as hens teeth (always wanted to work that phrase in). Both teams shot better than 55% for the first half (and both wound up 50% or better for the game), with the Wizards getting plenty of open looks from three, particularly in the corners because the Wolves radically over-rotated all half, and at the rim, while the Wolves countered with several transition buckets, a hot start from Towns particularly from mid-range, a blistering stretch from LaVine, and a better than usual bench stint, led by Tyus Jones.
The game stayed close through most of the third quarter, but it looked like the Wolves' second bench stint might do them in, as they gave away a small lead to a John Wall led run by the Wizards, and the Wolves were down eight by the time Ricky Rubio and Towns re-entered the game in the fourth quarter. But the Wolves fought back behind a couple of Rubio jumpers, and then the biggest play in regulation, a Gorgui Dieng corner three that tied the game at 109 with 20 seconds to go. Misses by Wall and a wide open Beal at the end of regulation got the Wolves to overtime.
The Wolves tried to run what they always run late in games during the first overtime: Wiggins as the ball handler in the pick and roll, but they started so far out and the action was so stagnant--as it often is--that it got them into trouble and down four late until LaVine's heroics saved them yet again.
The Wizards were led by John Wall's 22 and 16 assists, but it took him 22 shots to get there and he also had four turnovers. There were moments he looked unstoppable, and others where he forced the action and made uncharacteristically bad decisions and poor shot selection. Bradley Beal shot 9-18 and finished with 26 points, but missed shots at the end of regulation and overtime that would have won the game for the Wizards. The Wolves struggled to contain Gortat inside, as he went 8-11 from the field, but only 3-8 from the free throw line including two crucial misses near the end of the 2nd overtime.
All night, the Wolves had terrible problems negotiating simple screen action, with the Wizards regularly getting open and help either late arriving or rotations not sharp enough to avoid open looks. Still, they were able to get key stops toward the end of the fourth quarter and both overtimes and that ultimately made the difference.
I don't think I've done this game justice, so I'm just going to go to some bullet points to finish up:
- A huge factor in this one was free throw shooting: the Wolves were a perfect 22-22 after a surprisingly poor effort from the line against the Kings, while the Wizards were 16-23, including those two aforementioned Gortat misses.
- Andrew Wiggins had a poor game. His shooting was off (4-14), and while he managed seven boards over 43+ minutes, his defense was noticeably poor in a game full of poor defense. He drifts. Mentally. Or something.
- Lucas wrote about LaVine this morning, and he had another big game. His shot looks immaculate right now.
- Signs of life from Nemanja Bjelica! He scored 10 points on 4-5 shooting, grabbed three boards, and his only foul in 13 minutes of play was intentional.
- Towns' 27 and 10 felt rather routine. Read that again. (His three early in the 2nd overtime when Beal was threatening to take over was anything but routine.