The Wolves could not make a hot start stand up in Dallas, and wound up losing to the Mavericks 140-136 in a game that featured plenty of offense but very little defense on both sides. It was ultimately disappointing for the Wolves, whose defensive rebounding woes continued, with the Mavs grabbing 15 offensive boards which led to 24 second chance points, one of the big differences in the ball game.
The Wolves were without Jimmy Butler, who sat out (and did not travel with the team) on the second night of a back to back. Josh Okogie got the start in his place, and the first minutes of his NBA career. Despite some foul trouble, he acquitted himself well, showing the defensive chops and energy that we saw in the preseason. This was his signature play of the night:
He went up strong for a rebound, pushed himself, and found Taj Gibson for the and-1 in transition. He wasn’t quite as successful in later stints after his first excellent shift, but it was a very good debut for Okogie, who hopefully will carve out some playing time as the season goes on.
The somewhat more famous rookie in this game, the Mavs’ Luka Doncic, also did not disappoint. He was tremendous, finishing with 26 points and showing off his shooting and ball handling abilities throughout. As young as he is, he is clearly the leading figure on this Mavs team, initiating offense and playing with the ball in his hands consistently. He wasn’t perfect—six turnovers, including one late that led to a Derrick Rose transition bucket that pulled the Wolves within one, but he was as advertised, and looks like the next Dallas Mavericks star.
After the Wolves got out to a 15 point lead, the Mavs got back into it with offensive rebounds and some timely threes, tying the game at halftime. It was close throughout the second half, but a few big rebounds by the Mavs led to buckets and the Wolves were fighting from behind for the final few minutes of the game. A monster Karl-Anthony Towns three to get the Wolves within three preceded the Rose bucket, but the Mavs responded with an and-1 on a Dennis Smith Jr. jumper, and the Wolves could not recover from that with under a minute left.
The Wolves got big performances from several guys, notably Derrick Rose, who took over much of the isolation scoring in the absence of Jimmy Butler. He had a big game, finishing with 28-5-5 in 32 minutes, on 11-21 from the field. I’ll never be a fan of his, and I still think he looks to shoot it too much and that will backfire in the end, but he’s been very good the last two nights, so credit where it’s due.
Karl-Anthony Towns, who once again wasn’t in much of an offensive flow early, showed up in a big way in the 4th quarter, scoring 17 of his game high 31 in the fourth period. Unfortunately, he made his final free throw, when the Wolves needed a miss and a put back to tie the game with just over three seconds left. But it was good to see the array of his offense late in this game.
But really, Towns and the rest of the Wolves were unable to hold off the Mavs on the glass, and that was the key in the game. The Wolves shot a higher percentage from the field, made an impressive 14-27 threes (Mavs: 17-50,) and outscored the Mavs 34-25 at the free throw line. But thanks to their offensive rebounding the Mavs took 14 more field goal attempts than the Wolves, and that proved the difference in this one.
They also struggled, as they often do, containing guard penetration either in isolation or pick and roll, which led to a lot of easy lobs and kick-outs for open threes, in addition to adding to the rebounding woes, and players rotating to help were left out of position to help on the glass.
After such a good start, and scoring 136 points, this is obviously a disappointing loss for the Wolves, who fall to 1-2. Their next game is at home against the Indiana Pacers on Monday.
Let’s hit a few other notes:
- Andrew Wiggins was quietly effective tonight, with 19 points on nine shot attempts. He was in foul trouble, however, and wound up fouling out (has that ever happened before?) Led the team at +8.
- DeAndre Jordan remains a menace to the Wolves even in a Mavs uniform. He crushed the boards and blocked five shots, and still knows how to run the floor and dunk lobs.
- Three players were positive in raw +/- on the night: The aforementioned Wiggins, Tyus Jones and Josh Okogie. The increased playing time that was promised to Jones, however, has not materialized: 14 minutes tonight.