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Wolves 121, Lakers 104: Holiday Gifts

The Wolves outlast the Lakers on Christmas Day.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

Coming into the game tonight, I thought my main challenge with writing the recap was ensuring that I did not have too many glasses of wine during Christmas dinner in order to cogently describe the results of the late-night Timberwolves game.

However, I didn’t know the descent into madness that awaited me, for the entire game was to be announced by the TNT Halftime crew of Ernie, Kenny, Chuck, and Shaq.

Now, I was aware I could have switched over to the Timberwolves radio at any time, or even hit that handy mute button. But, as I was home for Christmas, this was one of the few times of the year that I was watching an actual (non-reddit) broadcast of a basketball game, so I pushed through.

Most of the time, the crew focused on the inefficacy of the modern game, primarily due to “analytics” and three-point shooting that had taken over the league. Many theories were bandied about for the cause of this problem, although the root issue proposed is teams poorly emulating the Golden State Warriors. One theory was that unless you have the three-point accuracy of the likes of Steph Curry or Kyle Korver, the answer is to just not shoot threes.

Big men shooting threes, in particular, drew the ire of the announcing crew. The single-minded Taj Gibson post-ups seemed like the better option for the Wolves.

However, the ruminations did not stop there. The crew was actually, in their normal candid self, quite critical of the Wolves offense that, while ranking 5th in offensive rating, would never be called “eye-pleasing.” The Wolves did not run enough and struggled to create good shots, often being forced to take difficult shots at the end of possessions. Those are real complaints.

There was also some vague criticisms of the tax bill and trickle down economics, which I’m sure famed-political extraordinaire Ernie Johnson enjoyed as he whispered “but her emails” to no one in particular.

However, the joys did not stop there. This was an extremely Timberwolves game. The team did not execute well on offense, Jeff Teague was sloppy with entry passes all night, Andrew Wiggins was mostly invisible, and the defense was abjectly awful.

The Lakers play the fastest pace of any team in the league the Wolves have a notoriously bad transition defense. That was not a good combination.

For the first three quarters, this game seemed like a worst-case scenario for Wolves fans. This team is amazing at playing down to the level of competition and a bad Lakers team that was missing Lonzo Ball, Brook Lopez, and Brandon Ingram was a ripe candidate to inspire the latest round of hysterics.

But, as we have found all season, is a Wolves victory even real if it does not prompt an existential crisis?

The Wolves won this game because they won the final quarter 38-24. This Lakers team is simply not good. They were jacking up threes and bad shots all game long. With most of the other playmakers out, Kyle Kuzma had the greenest of green lights and dropped 31 points shooting 6-11 from deep. The Lakers also benefited from their local bull in the china shop aka Julius Randle, who scored 16 points on 7-10 shooting.

But in the end they were no match for the Wolves.

Jimmy Butler was the star that he normally is, leading the Wolves with 23 points while dishing out 8 assists and grabbing five boards. Jimmy Butler is really good at basketball. I know we all know that, but it bears repeating. He is basically the only variable between the Wolves being a lottery team vs. a playoff team.

Noted three-point specialist Taj Gibson put the nail in the coffin at the end of the game and Taj was generally eating Kuzma for lunch on offense throughout the game. While Kuzma was stealing threes all game long, he basically gave up every point back as he was no match for Taj in the post.

Karl-Anthony Towns had a quiet first half, but then exploded in the final quarter along with the rest of the team. I’ll leave this right here.

Andrew Wiggins, in hindsight, finished with a good stat-line, with 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists, but he was generally invisible on the court. It is so hard to really ascertain how the Wolves should be best using him, as his skill set so clearly overlaps with Butler. However, this is the end result that we are generally looking for.

There are certain games when it seems like we truly need to have a Tyus Jones vs Jeff Teague discussion. This was one of those games. I don’t think that Thibs would ever make that drastic of a change, but it is hard not to notice.

And kids, don’t try the jump-pass at home. Or three-point shooting. But definitely get out and run. Make sure you are strong enough to play in the post though. Did I mention that you shouldn’t be shooting threes?

Happy Holidays y’all. The Wolves are 21-13. That is good enough for me.