Well, it may be a new season, but it was more of the same for the Timberwolves. There was some good, some bad, and some ugly in their 112-108 loss to the Spurs. Let’s dig into what happened tonight.
Jeff Teague had a big night, leading a strong third quarter that had Minnesota up 2 points heading into the fourth quarter. Teague finished with 27 points on 8-12 from the field.
The big question was Jimmy Butler’s reintegration with the team. It was obvious throughout the game that Butler had not practiced or played much. He was slightly out of sync on the offensive end, although he showed his usual grit on the defensive end of the floor. The biggest concern coming into the game for Butler performance wise was his conditioning, and it was clear that he was tired in the fourth quarter as many of his shots came up short. He tried once again to take over late, and did make a huge three to tie the game at 108, but wound up taking several brutally tough shots that cost the Wolves possessions down the stretch.
Jeff Teague on the other hand had a big night, leading a strong third quarter that had Minnesota up 2 points heading into the fourth quarter. Teague finished with 27 points on 8-12 from the field.
To say that Karl-Anthony Towns had a rough night would be an understatement. Towns finished with a disappointing 8 points and 9 rebounds. I believe my colleague, Kyle, summed his night up perfectly.
Listen, I’m #TeamTowns all the way, but it’s not a great look to follow-up a dreadful playoff series and “interesting” summer by fouling out in 22 minutes.— Kyle Theige (@kyletheige) October 18, 2018
The fact that Towns finished the game with only 6 field goal attempts is laughable. As easy as it would be to put this solely on Thibs, that wouldn’t be completely fair. Thibs is surely partially to blame, but KAT was often too passive on the offensive end. They both need to work to get KAT the ball in better spots to score, and Karl needs to be more aggressive when he does get the ball.
As a whole, there were a few things that stuck out. First off, the front line of the Spurs dominated Minnesota on the glass. The two-big looks from San Antonio presented a tough task for Minnesota, and they did not appear up to the challenge. It was especially glaring with the second units. Anthony Tolliver has his qualities, but he got absolutely punished on the boards.
Another thing that stood out was the usage of Derrick Rose. He was used almost exclusively as a shooting guard, and he certainly did shoot. He finished 3-12 from the field, and spent most of his time on the other end of the court being bullied by Derozan. He’s simply too small to be guarding wing players, and especially a player like Derozan who is so comfortable shooting over the top of his defender. I’m all for optimism, but I don’t know if I can handle 82 games of Derrick Rose getting 30 minutes as he did tonight.
There were moments of pace and continuity on offense, but these moments were almost exclusively in transition. The half court offense was mostly unimpressive outside of Jeff Teague knifing his way into the paint to hit either a shot at the rim or a floater. To describe the offense in a nutshell, it doesn’t appear that Thibs is changing his ways anytime soon.
One bright spot for Minnesota’s second unit was the play of Gorgui Dieng. The Senegal native finished the night with 12 points and 5 rebounds on 4-8 from the field in his 24 minutes. If they can get that kind of production from Dieng on a regular basis, it would be a massive boost for Minnesota’s second unit.
As the game came down to crunch time, the same problems that we’ve come to expect reared their ugly head. The offense stagnated into a heavy dose of Jimmy iso-ball. Defensively, their were missed assignments and rotations that left shooters open. Mostly, the Timberwolves did not execute down the stretch, while the Spurs did. The Wolves were incapable of guarding Derozan in the pick and roll regardless of who was defending him.
There were brief stretches of optimism for the Wolves, but ultimately those moments could not be sustained. While expectations are not exactly through the roof for this current version of the Wolves, it was still disappointing to see them drop a game they were very capable of winning, especially considering the lackluster effort they got from Towns.
It’s hard to know what to take from tonight. There were moments when the Wolves looked like the team we saw last year that, when healthy, looked capable of winning 50 games. There were also moments, like last year, that made you scream at your TV. This season promises to be a frustrating one, and it was clear tonight that this is not a cohesive unit playing together.
Now, all we can do is look forward to Friday’s home opener vs. Cleveland.