The Minnesota Timberwolves were visitors yet again to Staples Center Wednesday night, this time squaring off against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in a game Mark Jackson touted as a “must win for both teams.”
Anywho, after knocking off the King last Monday at the Target Center, the Wolves were looking for a similar result last night in hopes of capturing their first road win of the season (0-6 entering the night).
The evening started out rather promising, with Karl-Anthony Towns bringing his A-game on both ends of the floor. KAT played the entire first quarter, finishing with 9 points (4-6 shooting), 4 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 1 steal. His All Star-like performance during the first 12 minutes could best be summed up by this one highlight:
Karl-Anthony Towns will do everything on this play and you will like it. pic.twitter.com/aluY0SAIfd— Kyle Ratke (@Kyle_Ratke) November 8, 2018
Despite Town’s performance, the Wolves finished the first quarter only up two, in large part because of a lack of rebounding (shocker). It should also be noted that General Soreness attempted only one shot in the 11 minutes he played in the first quarter (more on that in a second).
The rest of the first half closely resembled that of a talented pick-up game: lackadaisical effort by both squads on defense, a plethora of three-point attempts, and a few SportsCenter worthy highlights:
The Wolves entered halftime clinging to their two-point lead, thanks in large part to their performance from deep. Shooting an electric 64.7% from beyond the arc, Minnesota tied a franchise record for made threes in one half (11), led by unlikely flamethrowers Andrew Wiggins (3) and Derrick Rose (2). Even Anchorman himself couldn’t believe Minnesota’s good news:
The third quarter was fairly forgettable, with both teams combining for 11 turnovers, only 3 FTA’s, and 34.4% shooting. Despite a strong showing in the first half, the Wolves starters laid a massive egg in the third frame, combining to shoot 6-for-24, which was compounded by an absolutely dreadful performance from the bench (7 total points on 16% shooting).
Notwithstanding, the Wolves still found themselves ahead by a basket entering the fourth frame, which seemed like a good omen for the troops led by General Soreness, who came into last night’s contest leading the league in 4th quarter scoring (averaging 10.1 points per game). After taking just 5 total shots in the first half, the General continued a season-long trend of playing like a preheating oven, asserting himself more and more as the game goes on. The man formerly known as “Precautionary Rest” finished the night as the team-leader in shots (18), assists (5), steals (3), and minutes (43).
However, it was a different solider who guided the troops in the final 12-minutes. Derrick Rose turned back the clock yet again, pouring in 11 fourth quarter points on 80% shooting, including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. In what is becoming somewhat of a retro-career year for the former MVP, Rose finished the game with 31 points on 65% shooting, including a career high 7 (SEVEN!) made three-pointers.
Nevertheless, it was too little too late for Minnesota, as the Wolves did what they do best in the fourth quarter — get out-rebounded and fail to score in late-game situations. While the lack of rebounding was familiar and the absence of late-game execution was expected (cc: Tom Thibodeau), the most alarming statistic from last night’s performance involved the Wolves two franchise players, Wiggins and Towns.
After combining for 28 points on 74.6% shooting in the first half, the two young cornerstones shot a combined 1-for-14 in the second half, including an abysmal 0-for-9 from Towns. After such a strong first half performance by both players, it was a tremendously depressing way to end the game, and resulted in the Wolves having to rely (once again) on veterans like Rose and the General to carry them as far as possible.
In the end, it was the young pups of the Lakers, not the Wolves, who stole the show, as Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart combined for 17 fourth quarter points en route to their fifth win of the season.
Oh, and that kid from Akron finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists. That helps, too.
Full Game Highlights
- As mentioned previously, the Wolves got next to nothing from their bench last night, with the four reserves (Jones, Okogie, Dieng, and Tolliver) combining to shoot 2-for-12. Okogie was especially bad, missing all three of his FGA’s (including the rim on two of those missed shots), and failed to record an assist or steal for the first time in his NBA career. Shake it off, rook.
- Good news: the Wolves set a new single-game franchise record for made three-pointers with 20. Progression!
- Bad news: despite shooting 50% on 40 3PA’s, the Wolves still lost. Regression!
- Towns 13-point performance marked the third time already this year that Towns has failed to score 14 points or more in a game. Last season, Towns didn’t accomplish this “feat” until January 22. Color me (extremely) concerned.
- Tyson Chandler made his Lakers debut last night, and did a good amount of Tyson Chandler stuff — set good screens, roll hard to the basket, and volleyball offensive rebounds. Chandler finished with a modest 2 points and 9 rebounds, but after just 23 minutes he already looks like the second best free agent signing by Magic Johnson.
Final (random) thought: after the game, the ESPN studio show was discussing how Towns disappeared yet again in the second half, and were debating if it was the fault of the coaching staff, his teammates, or the player himself for not getting more involved. Soon-to-be Wolves President of Basketball Operations Chauncey Billups (fingers crossed) joked that “back in my day when bigs as talented as Towns weren’t getting the ball, they would simply park themselves in the lane play after play until they got the ball or got a three-second violation.” While this example of asserting oneself is comical and rarely seen in today’s NBA, I can’t lie that it would be extremely refreshing to see Towns finally, FINALLY start to establish himself as the franchise-altering player we all think he is.
After all, this is his team, right?