The Timberwolves played like they were on a road back-to-back tonight.
The team was generally sluggish, with a back and forth first half giving way to a second half where the Wolves seemed like they were playing basketball in wet cement.
Karl-Anthony Towns was quiet until the game was basically out of reach. Although Jimmy Butler had a relatively strong game, Andrew Wiggins was quiet and Taj Gibson was essentially non-existent. Jeff Teague, for his part, was up and down, but I don’t think even Teague belives it is a good idea for him to be taking the most shots on the Wolves.
The Hornets shot 49.4 percent from the field, shooting 50 percent in the first half. They made 11 threes to the Wolves six (who shot a disastrous 22.2 percent from beyond the arc). The Hornets made one more free throw than the Wolves thanks to a late-game “Hack-A-Howard” strategy where Dwight Howard shot 6-10 on free throws during a few minutes where the game slowed to a crawl. The Hornets had 52 rebounds to the Wolves 38, 22 assists to the Wolves 13, 16 points of turnovers to the Wolves 6 (even while the Hornets turned the ball over six more times than the Wolves), and had 48 points in the paint to the Wolves 38.
Essentially, it is hard to win a game win you lose the turnover, rebounding, three-point shooting, fastbreak, and interior buckets battle.
Last night, most of the Wolves starters played around 40 minutes or over. Tonight, Andrew Wiggins had the most minutes with 36. The bench got more run, and had a stretch in the first half where they were able to keep up with the Hornets bench simply by Jamal Crawford catching fire, but struggled in the second half. At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Wolves were down 80-84. At around the nine-minute mark, the Hornets lead had grown to eight points and Jimmy Butler came in. The Wolves were never able to climb back into the game after that point, losing the fourth quarter 34-24.
A few Hornets in the particular were killer. Frank Kaminsky scored 24 points in 22 minutes, making 4 out of 5 three-pointers. A lot of his shots were tough makes that were well defended by Nemanja Bjelica, but other times he simply slipped free for an open look.
Kemba Walker did not have his best game, but he was a pest on defense. Nicolas Batum shot the ball great and made a few really challenging shots that sealed the game, he finished with 17 points while shooting 6-12 from the field.
After facing Andre Drummond last night, Karl-Anthony Towns had his hands full once again, matching up against Dwight Howard. Howard definitively won the rebounding battle against Towns and he ended up with a 25 points and 20 rebounds stat-line, with four blocks to go along.
On the Wolves end, they really never looked comfortable. Some of that is certainly due to the Hornets defense, who are notoriously difficult to play against. Marvin Williams played Towns tight all game and he was not able to get going until the fourth quarter when the game was falling out of reach.
But this was one of those games where the offense never really looked in sync. There was a lot of drive-and-kick action, but often with little result. Players are still hesitant to let the threes fly (although tonight it was somewhat understandable considering the brickfest of the first half). There were quite a few possessions where the Wolves struggled to get a clean shot off and were forced to heave up a prayer, or take a challenging look, as the shot clock expired.
Many Wolves fans are likely going to be questioning the usage of the bench again, particularly with Nemanja Bjelica. Bjelica was not his usual plus-minus god-self (ended up -6), but his spacing would have been useful tonight. Dwight Howard was able to hang around the interior as he guarded Taj Gibson, who finished with 1 point and did not make a shot from the field. If Bjelica was out there with Towns, they could have pulled Howard out of the interior and opened up driving lanes for Wiggins and Butler.
You put Towns and Bjelly out there and Howard has to guard one of them or sit— brittrobson (@brittrobson) November 21, 2017
Overall, it is hard to ascertain too much from this one loss. Sometimes this team is just going to come out flat, especially on the road on the tail end of a back-to-back. If the Wolves had held onto victory last night against Detroit, we would likely be chalking this one up as a “schedule loss.” As it is, we just have to accept the lumps and move on. Hopefully, the Wolves can learn something from this one and end the losing streak at two.