Coming into the game tonight, many thought this was going to be a schedule loss. The dreaded second half of a back-to-back in Milwaukee came on the heels of a game where the team lost their starting point guard in Jeff Teague to an MCL sprain, further entrenching the idea that we can accept a loss with peace of mind.
Still, tonight’s 102-96 loss hurt. After forcing ten turnovers on six steals in the first half, the team took a ten-point lead into the break. They were were energetic on defense, purposeful on offense. The lead ballooned to 20 midway through the third, then everything went wrong.
Andrew Wiggins tweaked his ankle stepping on Jimmy Butler’s foot and had to leave the game to be taped up. Tyus Jones dislocated his pinky in the fourth quarter and had to go to the locker room to get that fixed and taped up.
Worst of all, the team lost their energy and purpose. The offense sputtered with little to no ball movement, nor off-ball movement. The “Prevent Offense” was in full effect, and it appeared out of necessity. On defense, the team was constantly chasing the ball around, leading to easy buckets or second chances.
Exhaustion was apparent and hey, it’s what was expected, I guess.
If you’re concerned about another blown lead, remember, this is the NBA. A game of runs. As much as I hate to see a 20-point advantage turn into a loss, it’s the way it goes sometimes.
If you’re now thinking, ‘But we do it way more, this is a major problem,’ let’s pump the brakes a little. Until this year, the Timberwolves weren’t getting big leads in most games for quite a while.
One reason you’re seeing more leads disappear is the mere fact that the team is getting more leads. We’re so used to losing, that when the team blew these types of leads you chalked it up to being a bad team. In reality, that is really just the way the game goes sometimes.
The team has had to comeback to win at times this year, the most recent one being against Portland. They’ve also held off their fair share of attempted comebacks like Denver, or really any game during this now broken winning streak.
Runs come and go and the best teams have more than bad ones. That is obvious, but I think it’s clear the Wolves are still one of the best teams in the conference.
(I just saw Houston blew a 26-point lead to Boston tonight. Take THAT for data!)
Tyus Jones started his fourth game tonight in place of Teague, who is considered out indefinitely. He was, of course, brilliant. Jones tallied six points, five assists, four rebounds and five steals in another great all-around performance.
It was really unfortunate he had to leave for a few minutes during the fourth to fix his dislocated pinky. It was at a critical time and his defense throughout the game was pestering the Bucks.
Also, considering his over playing time of late, he was the freshest major contributor on the Wolves so his absence hurt that much more. After the game, Jones said his finger should be fine going forward.
Thibs said Wiggins sprained his ankle when stepping on Butler, which slowed him down the rest of the game. He started off on fire, going 4-4 from deep, but he missed his final two attempts late in the game and after his injury. He scored 21 points, matching his total from last night’s bounce-back game for him.
Butler was heroic against Denver and tried to recreate it tonight. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t happening. He ended the game with a very respectable 20 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals.
However, he was clearly gassed at the end and couldn’t buy a bucket. It appears his tab was full from last night.
Taj Gibson was asked about fatigue after the game and blew it off saying there is no excuse ‘once you put on the jersey.’ It’s true, this game was very winnable if they could have sustained their play from the first half.
The ball movement was crisp and off-ball players were in constant motion. It’s going to be on Thibodeau to figure out a way to prevent the drop off in the second half, either tweaking his game plan or minutes and rotations.
KAT, shockingly, did not get a double-double, which he leads the league in. He had 22 points, five boards, and four assists. Like Wiggins, he was hot from beyond the arc to start, going three for three in the first half. After that, he went 1-5 during the second half comeback for the Bucks.
I am not too concerned after this one, and it’s good to see the Wolves avoiding losing a second starting point guard in as many games. Hopefully Wiggins is just fine as well.
The team heads to Indiana to take on the Pacers this Sunday.