MINNEAPOLIS — With the Wizards in town sans John Wall, the Wolves needed a win in the biggest way. It was the end of a four-game home stand and the front end of a dreaded back-to-back that included flying to New Orleans last night after the game.
Unfortunately, due to injuries to Jeff Teague and Nemanja Bjelica, this shallow team went from a kiddie pool to a puddle. The more than capable starters couldn’t carry the load before running out of gas. The final score was 92-89 after another fourth quarter collapse, which led to a morose post-game presser and locker room.
If you ask the players though, it had nothing to do with fatigue.
“I can’t speak for everyone. I felt good,” Andrew Wiggins softly spoke after the game.
“No, no, no. We just got beat the normal, regular way,” KAT said when asked if the team was too gassed at the end of the game.
“We have to be able to push through because everyone is tired, they’re tired. They play just like we play. It’s a physical game. That’s not an excuse,” Tyus Jones explained.
Of course, the Duke alum puts it a little more eloquently than his blue-blood counterparts, but I call bullshit.
The players, any player, would never admit to being too tired at the end of a game. The weakness seeps from your pores when you say something like that. I am not a player so I will say it; this team cannot sustain these types of minutes if they want to make any noise when the postseason arrives.
No one in the starting five played less than 37 minutes, most getting close to or over 40 minutes total. On the other hand, the Wizards had two starters who played more than 32 minutes, with Bradley Beal playing the most at 34.
The Wolves shot 8-24 from the field in the fourth quarter and attempted zero free throws. Zero free throws.
Shots were falling short and silly decisions were being made. Both are signs the team was fatigued. We knew what we were getting with Thibs, and you can argue the bench play doesn’t warrant more minutes, but the buck has to stop somewhere.
I understand the players want to play. You would never hear someone quoted as saying they are getting “too many minutes.” At some point, though, you need to admit to what you’re seeing from your team as a coach. FATIGUE.
The biggest concern from detractors of Thibs when he took over as head coach and POBO was that he ran his players into the ground. “He literally tore Derrick Rose’s ACL in half with his bare hands! And now LaVine’s!”
OK, nobody said that but some were convinced his starter’s big minutes led to their injuries. That’s really hard to prove and players can get hurt for all sorts of reasons. However, it is easy to see a team is tired when the Wolves played like they did last night in the second half.
The first quarter play versus the fourth shows just that. The game started with great ball movement that led to a quick 12-4 lead on 5-6 shooting from the field. Guys were constantly moving without the ball, finding space to get the best shot possible. After one, the team found themselves up 30-23.
Then, the Wizards went on a 16-2 run, starting at the tail end of the first quarter to retake the lead not even three minutes into the second frame. Still, the Wolves found themselves again and took an eight point lead into the locker room at half.
The second half proved to be the home team’s downfall.
I don’t want to make it seem like there were no positives in this game. This was a great defensive effort by the starters, specifically guys like Wiggins and KAT who have been called out on that side of the ball.
Tyus, Taj and Butler have been great to watch when defending pick and rolls. Their communication and switching was on point last night. We know what the former Bulls can do, but it’s really impressive to see Tyus playing defense this well as an undersized guard in the NBA.
If you looked at the individual stats for everyone, many (starters) had good games.
Tyus had 12 points, seven assists and four rebounds. Butler had 17 points, 10 assists and seven boards. Wiggins struggled to score again, 13 points on 5-15 shooting, but made some impressive hustle plays. Taj had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
The most peculiar case was with KAT. 20 points and 17 boards, pretty standard, but, again, zero free throws attempted. That is absurd, and this is where I will defend Towns but then also challenge him like some sort of life coach or something.
The man couldn’t buy a damn call last night. He was getting hounded but literally nothing was called. Even Thibs addressed it in the presser.
“Yeah. Mahinmi is a good defender. There was a physicality to it. He didn’t get any calls. I thought he drove the ball hard. I’m going to look at it. If I see something I’ll send it in. It seems like a guy that goes to the basket as much as he does should at least get a couple of calls.”
Whoa! I know it wasn’t that crazy but usually coaches give the same old ‘not an excuse’ bit. But he’s right. Towns does a lot of work in the paint and attacking the rim so it’s really odd for a player like him to not get to the charity stripe once.
At the same time, KAT needs to rethink how he approaches calls and non-calls from refs when he doesn’t agree. Every superstar complains, but it’s the way they do it that can either hurt or help. He can be way too demonstrative with his complaints, coming off as a whiny kid not getting his way. It’s not even the initial reaction, which every player does to a non-call, but he keeps it up for way too long. It reached it’s boiling point last night and seemed as if the refs were refusing to call anything to show up KAT.
Maybe this crew was a ‘let ‘em play’ group but there were obvious calls missed. My advice to KAT, from someone who has never and will never play an NBA game: Charm them. The young center sweet talks the media all the time, and he should think about applying it to his complaints. Don’t stop arguing, like I said, every superstar does it. But try to win them over with kindness. That’s your thing, KAT, and I want to see you get more calls.
The team takes on the Pelicans tonight in New Orleans. Lord have mercy on their fatigued souls.