There are a few ways to look at games like this one.
One hand, games like this happen to good teams. The NBA is full of players who are in the top 1 percent of the 1 percent of all-world athletes who are good at the game of basketball. At times, even bad teams are going to be able to beat good teams. Guys like Evan Fournier and Bismack Biyombo have big contracts because of their talent. They may not be able to perform at this level every night, but they have it in them.
On the other hand, good teams should not lose to teams as bad as the Magic. The Magic were 1-16 in their last 17 games. This is not like the Nets, who are a feisty team that is well-coached and has been known to steal a few wins. This is a team who has lost seven games in a row, has the 28th worst net rating, and is filled with players who may or may not be qualified to play in today’s NBA. D.J. Augustin, who has been on six teams in the last four years, was the closing point guard for the Magic.
It’s hard to start with what went wrong, as pretty much everything did, so let’s instead lead with the big moment of the night, the scuffle between Nemanja Bjelica and Aaron Afflalo.
I’ll spare y’all the “I used to be jealous of Aaron Afflalo” jokes, but this little fight will likely lead to the suspension of Afflalo, as he full-on swung at Bjelly.
Now, let’s play the game of “who had a bad night.”
- Karl-Anthony Towns had a classic good stats bad play game, finishing with 15 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks. He reverted to a lot of his bad habits, such as chasing after blocks he had no chance of getting and leaving his man wide open for an easy put-back. He was beaten off the dribble to the rim in pick-and-roll all game long and was ineffective at anchoring the defense. On offense, the Magic opted to primarily put a smaller player on KAT, like Aaron Gordon, then double-team him. Towns’ lone assist lets you know that worked out pretty well for the Magic
- Andrew Wiggins was essentially invisible. He had 9 points on 4-12 shooting and actually had a good box score game for Wiggins with 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and a block. He essentially could have been your random NBA wing and achieved the same results
- Jeff Teague exhibited some of his worst tendencies, particularly on defense. He was anemic on the court and seemed to fail to recognize that he was supposed to be guarding his man at times. The Magic were gifted a few wide open threes in the fourth quarter simply due to Teague standing around.
- This was one of those bad Jamal Crawford games, 3 of 8 shooting for 8 points, which we simply have to accept at this point. Unfortunately, it happened at a time when the rest of the team was falling apart. His three-point shooting was one of the saving graces though.
- Gorgui Dieng played ok, but it’s hard for the big man to make too much of a difference all by himself. Tyus Jones was a sparkplug at times, but only had a limited run with 13 minutes. Bjelica was tossed after five minutes, so that is about it for the Wolves bench.
I notably left out Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson from the “bad game” list, as both of them were the only reason the Wolves were able to make this a game. Jimmy was, well, Jimmy, finishing with 28 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals, and 2 blocks. Taj was a team worst -9 in the game and his matchup with Aaron Gordon did not seem fun, but his mid-range and post points were essential tonight.
A big problem was the Wolves lost a lot of the battles they normally win. They lost the free throw battle 17-9. They won the turnover battle decisively, but did little with it. They were demolished on the boards 51-39, including losing the offensive rebounding battle 15-11.
A lot of that was due to the stellar play of Bismack Biyombo, who had one of those games that earned him that 72 million dollar contract. In the first quarter, Biyombo seemed to block everything in sight and ended up with 10 points, 16 boards, and 5 blocks. His backup, Khem Birch, had five blocks of his own.
Evan “never google” Fournier set a career high scoring record with 32 points, which was very much bolstered by his 6-12 shooting from beyond the arc. He was on fire from deep, although the Wolves were very kind to leave him wide open on several occasions, and also had a few nice drives to the rim against Towns.
Aaron Gordon was a matchup nightmare and even though he had an awful shooting from the three-point line, going 1-7. He is exactly the type of small-ball four that the Wolves struggle to matchup with. Thankfully, there are few players as fast and strong as Gordon in the league.
This was one of those bad Timberwolves games that, back in 2017, made us question the team’s ability to perform at a high level. We know that this Wolves team can be one of the best in the NBA, but games like this one show us how fleeting that success can be on a game-to-game basis. All there is to do is move on to the next one.