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Wolves 104, Clippers 101: What Just Happened?

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From Despair to Delight in a quarter and a half.

I really have no idea what just happened.

For the majority of this game, I sat awash in frustration and anger. I repeatedly told my right hand to calm down and not throw the remote at the television. Eventually, I turned to the following clip (and booze) to ease the pain that I was experiencing throughout the first half and the start of the third:

I needed a distraction. I couldn’t continue to watch our stagnant offense and atrocious interior defense. We were playing a Clippers team without Point God CP3 (h/t Kyle) and Bounce Griffin, with a starting lineup of three guards, one of whom was Austin Rivers. All the Wolves had to do was not allow Rivers to penetrate, not allow JJ Redick open looks, and not allow DeAndre Jordan to get easy dunks and rebounds. Just protect the interior Timberwolves. You’ll be good.

Instead of listening to my sound advice, the Wolves decided to make Austin Rivers look like an All-Star and DeAndre Jordan a city-leveling-basketball-Godzilla. Repeated drives through the lane, repeated easy buckets, repeated threats from my right hand ensued.

The Clips finished the game shooting 48 percent from the floor, but only 18 percent from the three point line. Three-point shots were not the concern. It was poor switches, poor ICE-ing, poor blocking out, and just an outright disdain for effort that allowed the Clips to dominate the interior and increase their lead to 12 points midway through the third. DeAndre finished the game with 29 points, 12-15 on field goals, 16 rebounds, and two blocks. He had some struggles from the free throw line, but we can discuss that later. It seemed that another “should win” was turning into another ugly result for the Young Pups.

And then something happened towards the latter part of the third. A certain Timberwolf decided that the hungover, tepid performance of the first half was too much. He was concerned for the health of the team and the health of my remote control. Enter this man:

Karl-Anthony Towns is a man. He is a large man that desperately wants wins. He craves them. Like catnip. Sometimes I feel like he wants to win so badly, to be the man to carry this team over the hump, that he doesn’t play sound, smart basketball. Tonight was not that night.

KAT’s final stat line, 17 for 24, 37 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, one massive three, and one remote control saved. He completely switched the game. From desperate offensive sets to competent looking basketball from the end of the third through the fourth. He hustled to rebounds, threw down put-back dunks, hit shots, made faces, and briefly restored my faith in Timberwolves basketball.

Towns scored 15 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, 56 percent of the teams total points during that time. But he didn’t do it alone. There is another character that popped up during our story. Towns, and this man, came to party:

Tyus Jones, ladies and gentlemen. My fellow Apple Valley alumnus’ entrance into the game seemed to coincide with the game’s fortune change. Coming into the second half, there was a mysterious absence of a certain Spanish Unicorn. Midway through the second quarter, I noticed that Kris Dunn was playing with the rest of the starters while Ricky sat on the bench. When the second half started and the same lineup trotted out, I was seized by a moment of panic. Was Adrian Wojnarowski’s “shopping Rubio” rumor-mongering coming to fruition? Was Thibs testing out a new starting lineup during the team’s road trip? Were we on the road to lottery-town already?

Fortunately, and unfortunately, this was not the case. Ricky was experiencing hip tightness in the locker room and was not to return for the rest of the game. Thibs has no other options. He couldn’t ignore the Apple Valley Eagle any longer. It was Tyus time.

I had a friend from high school, Mark, that was attending the game. He sent the cover photo. For those that have not met Mark, here he is:

We talked after the game. He said that in Tyus’ 12 minutes on the court, he was continuously communicating with Thibs, both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. He also noted that he was the only point guard to force Rivers to his left, effectively ending the “Austin Rivers, All-Star” campaign that the Wolves started three quarters earlier.

Tyus isn’t the most athletically gifted. He’s not the tallest or fastest Timberwolf on the roster, but something seemed to click when he entered the game. He finished with just four points, but he hit a nice three and contributed five assists during that time. He was able to fight through screens and disrupt the Clippers offense. Additionally, I saw that in every deadball situation, Tyus continuously talked to Dunn and the rest of the team on the court. He was offering support, and butt-slaps, and reminders of who to box out on free-throws. He may not fill up the stat sheet, but there’s something to be said of the leadership he was providing on a veteranless team.

With Towns and Tyus, the Wolves were able to gradually chip away at the Clippers lead. I kept checking the score, trying to convince myself that what I was seeing was reality and not the result of over-drinking away my first half sorrows. As the end of the game approached, the team was within fighting distance of the lead.

Enter the third featured player of the night; Hack-A-Jordan.

Poor, poor DeAndre. He’s been doing better. He’s up to 52 percent this season from the line, but still carries a 43 percent career average. He put his lifetime percentage on display tonight, finishing 5 for 12 and reinforcing Hack-A-Jordan as an effective fourth quarter strategy. His free throws and KAT’s catnip fueled fourth allowed the Wolves to grasp victory from the jaws of defeat.

I’m still trying to piece together the reality of what just happened. The Wolves were able to turn a game around, win a closely contested battle, and not crush my playoff dreams. It’s going to take some time to process.

Side Notes

  • Wiggins had a sneaky good game. I barely noticed him after the start of the first quarter, but he filled up the stat sheet. 27 points, 9-19 FG, 8-10 FT, four rebounds, four assists, and a block.
  • Belly was a walking zombie.
  • LaVine was not good tonight. He had 9 points on 3-13 shooting. Maybe his hip is still bothering him, but it wasn’t a confidence building performance.
  • Shabazz was there.
  • Favorite quote from Towns was delivered postgame - “Put some respect on my name.”

Final Score: Wolves 104, Clippers 101. My night completely turned around in the matter of two hours. From pain and agony to utter glee. My remote was still thrown across the room, and may be permanently damaged, but at least it was done in happiness rather than anger.

Win Streak Count: One