I was sitting in my basement watching Moneyball on FX last Saturday.
I've probably seen the film at least five times, but it's one of those movies I simply can't turn off when it comes on TV. Sports, analytics, and a strong cast of actors led by Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. I love it every single time.
So, tonight at Target Center, I sat there and watched two of the league's five worst teams go head-to-head and started thinking about Moneyball. Nothing from an analytics standpoint, but rather a certain scene at the end of the film that came to mind.
We last see Brad Pitt, who plays the role of Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, driving his truck while listening to a mix tape his daughter made for him.
I thought about the lyrics of the song, particularly the line "Just enjoy the show."
Before the game even started, anyone paying attention could have predicted the Wolves, even with their warts, would blowout the Nets.
Brooklyn was going to play without their two best players*—Brook Lopez and Thad Young—who were sitting out to rest in the midst of a nine-game road trip, on the second night of a back-to-back after playing last night in Denver.
*Nobody can accuse the Nets of tanking in the name of increasing their lottery odds because their first-round draft choice is property of the Boston Celtics. Brooklyn simply decided it was best to hold out Lopez and Young in a lost season and they were doomed because of that.
Still, the Wolves needed to take care of business. They needed to beat up on the shorthanded Nets, who had zero bullets in the chamber to begin with, after last night's revolting performance in Milwaukee that saw Sam Mitchell bench the starters, presumably to send them one of his messages.
"It was big for us," said Karl-Anthony Towns. "We had to look ourselves in the mirror and know that [Sam Mitchell] took us out for a purpose, so that's why we came out tonight with a lot of energy. We hit a lot of shots, we came out with a great sense of urgency and that's why we came out with a great win tonight."
The Wolves certainly responded, shooting a franchise-record 68.4 percent (52-of-76) from the floor en route to setting a new season-high in scoring with 132 points. According to @Twolves_PR, we witnessed the highest field goal percentage by any NBA team since the Clippers shot 69.3 percent vs. Toronto on Mar. 13, 1998.
I enjoyed the show, details aside, even in the presence of letdowns and uncertainty.
Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 28 points on 14-18 shooting, which was his new high for made field goals. Again, I marveled over his incredible skill set and the depth of his talent. KAT had a season-high seven assists to go with six rebounds, three blocks, and two steals in 38 minutes.
I enjoyed watching one of the best rookies of my lifetime put on a show after being presented his fourth straight rookie of the month award before tip-off.
Zach LaVine started at shooting guard next to Ricky Rubio in the backcourt, like he should every game, and finished with 21 points and 4 assists. It was LaVine's fourth game in the last five with 20 or more points. He was 9-12 from the field and 3-5 from beyond the arc. Over his last 25 games, he's gone 41-94 (43.6%) from long range.
I loved seeing LaVine play his natural position and going on a scoring binge in the second quarter (10 points) where we saw the Bounce Brothers drop 21 of the teams 31 points, the same amount the Nets scored in the quarter (21).
Speaking of the tandem, Andrew Wiggins finished with 26 points on 10-14 shooting (2-2 from 3-point land!). He was a game-high +21 in 33 minutes, adding a season-high-tying six assists and four rebounds to his line. The Maple Murker made everything look easy tonight. There were stretches of play where he put on a passing clinic.
"I think we responded well," said Wiggins. "We knew last night was not the way we play, we all know we're better than that, so today was a good day to get back at it in front of the home crowd and play how we usually play."
The Wolves finished 10-18 from three-point range in only the second game of the season with double-digit 3-pointers. Obviously that was enjoyable for anyone who watches religiously.
Rubio also posted his eighth double-double with 16 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds. He went 5-8 from the field (2-4 from deep), which extended a streak of improved shooting that has seen him go 44.8 percent from the floor and 41.4 percent from long distance over his last 12 games.
I loved watching the team dish 36 assists (matching a season-high at LAL, Feb. 2), including 14 in the first quarter alone, which was the most in a quarter since April 13, 2003 (15 in the third quarter vs. Chicago).
Sometimes it's nice to ignore the details, like Brooklyn going to battle without the necessary weapons, and forget about the uncertainty surrounding the team's leadership for the moment. It's just satisfying to sit back and enjoy the win amidst all of the chaos.
That's exactly what I did tonight; I let it go and just enjoyed the show.