That was an odd game.
The Wolves, at least from my perspective, never seemed like they were going to lose up until the final moments of the game. The Timberwolves, particularly Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns, simply had too easy of a time on offense. The Wolves were just missing easy shots at the rim all throughout the first half while the Nets were making tough shot after tough shot.
The Nets were often forced into late-clock situations, especially when they were running zero-point guard lineups with Allen Crabbe as the lead guard. The Nets were also turning over the ball a ton, finishing with 19 turnovers to the Wolves 8, and were fouling the Wolves. The Wolves went to the free throw line 30 times tonight, and Jimmy Butler went to the line 18 times himself.
The Wolves seemed like they were going to figure it out. Towns was somehow going against Rondae-Hollis Jefferson for much of the game and whenever he was able to get the ball down low, he scored with ease. Whenever Butler or Andrew Wiggins drove off a pick-and-roll, they had wide open lanes for jumpers.
But the Wolves didn’t win. Those shots did not start going in.
Part of the reason the Nets pulled away with a victory was the three-point disparity. While the Wolves won the free throw battle 24 to 10, they lost the three-point battle 14-1. That 39 point difference more than makes us for the free throw imbalance.
The Wolves were a disastrous 1 of 11 from behind the arc and they struggled to really spread out the Nets defense along the perimeter. The Nets funneled the Wolves into mid-range shot opportunities and the Wolves were unable to take advantage, nor force the Nets into playing a different defensive system.
Again, we saw a team front Towns all game long with great success. When Towns is being guarded by a smaller player, the Wolves do not have the spacing to either get him room in the paint or allow Towns to find shooters if a double comes.
Spencer Dinwiddie was the other main culprit, as well as the late-game savant, all throughout the game. Dinwiddie played great on both offense and defense, leading the Nets with 26 points on 9-14 shooting with 9 assists.
Dinwiddie’s late-game heroics were two fadeaway jumpers, both barely over the outstretched hands of the Wolves. Here was his final bucket that gave the Nets the eventual winning point.
Joe Harris chipped 17 points on 4-5 shooting from beyond the arc. RHJ played well, leading all Nets in plus-minus, and frustrated the Wolves with his positional mismatch.
The rookie Jarrett Allen was reasonably impressive as well and he had several nice rolls to the rims that ended in easy dunks (even if he did miss a couple of them).
For the Wolves part, no one really did much to distinguish themselves. Tyus Jones hurt his historic steal and assist ratios by committing four turnovers tonight compared to his one assist and two steals. However, they really could have used Jeff Teague’s ability to shoot from deep against a team that seemed to be just daring the Wolves to shoot from beyond the arc.
The bench was pretty much awful. Jamal Crawford took a bunch of tough shots and exactly half of them went in. Other than that, it was hard to say that he was of very much use. At the start of the second quarter the Wolves trotted out perhaps my least favorite lineup of the year with Aaron Brooks, Jamal Crawford, Nemanja Bjelica, Gorgui Dieng, and Towns. It did not go super well.
In fact, Bjelica is starting to run out of time for his grace period after returning from injury. In 13 minutes of action, Bjelica had flat zeros across the board other than one foul. He simply looks like he is having a hard time fitting in again and I cannot imagine these forays at small forward are helping.
In general, there is not too much to take away from this game. The Wolves were listless throughout and the Nets were able to capitalize. The Nets play hard and make relatively good decisions. The Wolves just shot so, so poorly all night long.
It’s a long season. This was not one of the better games to watch, but sometimes it happens. The Wolves cannot afford lapses like this very often, particularly this month, so hopefully they find again that energy from a few nights ago.