Preseason game four is all wrapped up and if you happened to be watching the nightmare that it was, you’re probably pretty happy about that. Giannis Antetokounmpo and his gang of Eastern Conference giants swept the helpless Wolves aside, finishing with a 118-96 win at the Fiserv Forum.
So what did we take away from it? Let’s explore.
Nope. For once it wasn’t the Minnesota weather. This time, it was the Timberwolves, whose shots clanking off the rim all night could be heard all the way back in the Twin Cities, that were cold as ice.
They finished the night shooting a deplorable 31.3 percent (30-96) from the field. The scheme was the same — shots at the rim and launching from deep with reckless abandon — but the execution was atrocious.
At first, Milwaukee was just as bad, leading to a game that resembled someone taking a branding iron to the eyeballs. However, the reigning Eastern Conference champions’ talent and depth caught up with them, allowing them to sprint away to the finish line.
Everyone was a culprit in this one. Wiggins (4-18) and Jeff Teague (1-9) were their usual selves, but Karl-Anthony Towns (3-9), Jarrett Culver (2-12) and Shabazz Napier (4-10) looked a shell of their preseason form.
Here’s to not having to watch that again.
We knew coming into the season that Robert Covington was going to be the Timberwolves’ second most important player behind Karl-Anthony Towns. The only question was how quickly he was going to regain that form after spending 10 months devoid of real game time.
Over the last two preseason outings, he has proven that he already has his mojo back. He finished off his exhibition season with 13 points, 11 rebounds and two steals. Just like his mammoth 19 boards against Indiana, Covington proved once again the worries about the rebounding in Ryan Saunders’ small-ball starting unit were overblown.
However, as we know, his impact stretches far beyond your average counting stats. He was the only player to register a positive plus/minus (+7) and his net rating (+7.7) was far and away the best on the team. All that in a 22-point loss that he spent a good portion of guarding the juggernaut that is Giannis Antetokoumpo.
His rebounding is somewhat of a surprise, but his tremendous defense has and will be his calling card night-in and night-out. Seriously, look at him work his tail off to get in front of The Greek Freak in this post-up situation before alleviating him of the burden that is having the ball.
In case you forgot how good Robert Covington is at playing defense pic.twitter.com/jv7ewIXOSV— Jake Paynting (@jakepaynting) October 18, 2019
In a night of misery, Covington was a shining light. That probably won’t be the last time you hear that this season.
They may not have the shooters like Houston do. I mean, they may have the worst outside shooting squad in the league, but the dedication Minnesota has shown to sticking with an analytics-driven shot distribution doesn’t seem to be wavering.
They shot just 11 of their 96 field goals from the dreaded mid-range area and launched a monstrous 48 3-pointers. That sort of number that hasn’t been an oddity in the new season either. It’s a stark difference from the 17.5 mid-range jumpers and 28.7 triples they put up per game last season.
The personnel might not be completely up to scratch, but the template is right. Houston North is real.
Ups and Towns
It was a strange game for franchise pillar Karl-Anthony Towns. His aforementioned shooting woes weren’t typical and even more worrisome, he left the game with a suspected rib injury late in the fourth. He was laboring through the pain for around five minutes before heading to the locker room, so it doesn’t seem like it’s anything too serious, but it wasn’t the sight Wolves fans wanted to see in a meaningless game.
With all that in mind, there was still enough of the usual KAT awesomeness to wet the palette. He threw a plethora of pinpoint bullets to cutters and shooters, some which resulted in an assist and some which didn’t. He also added to his ever-growing poster collection by baptizing Brook Lopez.
Good lord. Karl-Anthony Towns just sent Brook Lopez to an early grave. pic.twitter.com/qcRk884pXN— Jake Paynting (@jakepaynting) October 18, 2019
For the most part, supporting the Minnesota Timberwolves is like a constant kick to the teeth. But we really should appreciate getting to watch Karl-Anthony Towns play basketball every night.
The best part about it? Most nights will be even better than this one.
The game wasn’t fun. I think that’s been hammered home enough. What was fun though was the bench burst by two-way guy Kelan Martin. At times, he looked like the only player who could actually go and get a bucket, finishing with 13 points (5-12 FG) and two assists in just 24 minutes.
Along with the offensive firepower, he showed a tenacity on the defensive end that the Timberwolves sorely needed against an elite offense. A solid body with 6-foot-7 height and a smooth-looking stroke to boot, Martin has all the makings of a legitimate NBA wing.
The problem is he is currently behind a long line of Wolves wings. It is hard to see him getting minutes in front of Wiggins, Culver, Jake Layman, Robert Covington, Treveon Graham and Keita Bates-Diop. In any case, he is a useful body to have on the roster and should give the G-League a fair shake this season.