The Suns were more than willing to lose this game tonight, as they have done through most of the early season. The Wolves, however, refused oblige, blowing several leads, including the last one, up six with under five minutes left. They proceeded to fail to score for the next four minutes as the Suns blew past them and ultimately secured a 118-110 victory. This is what happens when you combine poor shooting with unintelligent play and defensive lapses.
Friends, this was a bad one. The Wolves had a miserable time offensively through most of the night, trying to find good looks. Against one of the worst defenses in the league, they wound up shooting barely 40 percent from the floor. Their spacing was atrocious, and their ball movement, which has looked good through much of the last stretch of games, was awful. They were forcing things all night, starting with Jimmy Butler, who appears to have meant what he said yesterday that it was time for him to score. Well, it was time for him to shoot anyway, as he hoisted up 17 shots, making only five. (He did get to the line 16 times and finished with 25 points, but he was forcing things all night.)
Karl-Anthony Towns also struggled to a 8-19 night, as Tyson Chandler and Marquisse Chriss both gave him trouble in the paint, and his outside game was not working. He and Jeff Teague, who looked confused and discombobulated all night, were major culprits in this one. Teague’s 3-10 from the field and six turnovers was disastrous, and he and Towns managed a -27 and -23 respectively, which ultimately doomed the Wolves.
Despite the terrible shooting, the Wolves looked in control at several points along the way, thanks to their dominance at the free throw line (35 FTAs to the Suns 24, several of which were end-of-game intentionals,) and on the offensive glass, where they grabbed 19 of their own misses. But as we’ve seen time and time again, they could not get the stops they needed, with the Suns wing tandem of T.J. Warren and Devin Booker each scoring 35 and combining to go 28-44 from the field. The defense was poor. Warren was getting to his spots and overpowering his defender, usually Andrew Wiggins, while Booker found his rhythm in the second quarter and started raining jumpers on the Wolves. Warren also got plenty in transition, running out and beating the Wolves down court. Wiggins, who scored 27 himself, was a bright spot offensively for the Wolves, but ultimately he and Butler need to “win” their match ups, and they failed to do so tonight.
Things generally seemed to function much better when Tyus Jones and Nemanja Bjelica were in the game for Teague and Towns, as the spacing was significantly better and the ball movement picked up. Bjelica is seeing the inevitable regression to the mean on his three point shooting, but still did some effective things on the floor in his 20 minutes of action.
I don’t know what else to say about this. It was terrible. The Suns would absolutely have lost this game had the Wolves strung together more than a few sporadic minutes of quality play. It’s hard making these sorts of judgments from the couch, but the Wolves did not look engaged enough tonight. Butler seemed single-minded in pursuit of baskets, Teague was tentative in a way a vet should never be, Towns lacked ferocity, Wiggins drifted in and out. It was a total team failure, with really only Taj Gibson among the starters showing the requisite resolve.
They really cannot be losing games like this. It’s a setback.
- Gorgui Dieng did not play tonight due to a sprained finger suffered against the Warriors the other night. Cole Aldrich was also out with a sprained ankle.
- This was one of Shabazz Muhammad’s sprier efforts of the season, with nine points in nine minutes.
- Jamal Crawford was a non-factor, however, failing to score in his nine minutes.
- In Utah on Monday.
- I cannot emphasize enough how awful this loss was.