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Pack Points: Home Heartbreak

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Minnesota rallies back but falls short.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Minnesota Timberwolves David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

That’s a tough pill to swallow.

After building a lead in the first half, dropping it and looking in danger of being blown out and storming back into the game with a 16-0 run to finish regulation, the Timberwolves ultimately watched Nikola Jokic bury them in the final seconds of overtime.

The low-scoring affair finished 100-98, dropping the Wolves to 5-4 on the season with the back-end of their first back-to-back tonight in Detroit. The Denver disappointment is one that fans will want to forget about pretty promptly, but there is plenty to examine from what was a sloppy-but-fun night. Let’s talk about it.

Shot in the Foot

Minnesota quite literally shot themselves in the foot in this one. It’s hard to actually imagine how they were even in the game after shooting 6-45 (13.3%) from 3-point range. Taking and bricking triples has been a reoccurring theme this season, but this was a new low.

When Josh Okogie, a career 28% shooter from distance, is making a third of your 3-pointers, you know something has gone wrong. Outside of NonStop, only Andrew Wiggins (1-6) and Karl-Anthony Towns (3-14) made a shot from beyond the arc. It was genuinely historically bad.

Had they been able to just make one more, maybe Minnesota would have been able to slay the 2018-19 Western Conference first seed. Perhaps they should take some encouragement that they took Denver all the way to the finish line with such a bad shooting night. However, they need to make sure these kinds of disasters don’t become regular viewing.

Down Towns

After starting the season in the form of his life, Karl-Anthony Towns has hit a dry patch. Amazingly, a lean night for the two-time All-Star consists of 26 points, 16 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. That’s how high the bar is.

While the numbers were still gaudy, Towns couldn’t get his shot to fall with the efficiency that has made him such a handful to guard in the past. He shot just 8-23 from the field and 3-14 from long-range. In the past three games since returning from his two-game suspension, Towns is shooting just 39% from the field and 25.8% from distance.

When he was asked after the game about finding his shot again, Towns was pretty straightforward. “I don’t know. When I find out I’ll tell you. Or you’ll see it, most likely,” he said.

Hopefully, we see it tonight against Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin and the Detroit Pistons.

Canadian Clutch

Death, taxes and ... Andrew Wiggins coming up big in crunch time?

We’re just nine games in, but the Canadian has made saving the Wolves’ tail a habit already. He scored 11 points in the fourth quarter and overtime against Denver, including this trademark whirling dervish that left Nikola Jokic in a daze.

For the season, Wiggins is 12-20 from the field and 3-7 from the field in ‘clutch’ situations, which is defined by NBA.com as games within five points with under five minutes remaining. Only Kyrie Irving’s 15 field goal makes are more than what Wiggins has produced and he has had 16 more field goal attempts.

When the pressure is highest, Andrew Wiggins has become a carnivorous, bucket-hunting predator this season. You love to see it.

Confident Culver

Like most rookies, Jarrett Culver has had his fair share of early-season struggles. Even when he has looked good, like he did tonight, he still tends to float in and out of games. Although, his confidence is clearly swelling by the night. Last night was no different.

In his third straight start in place of the ailed Jeff Teague and the injured Shabazz Napier, Culver came out of the gate with a bang. He finished the first half with 8 points (4-7 FG), 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. His self-assured game was capped off with this roof-raiser where he crossed it and tossed it through Jamal Murray and Jerami Grant.

Slowly but surely Jarrett Culver is starting to show us his full arsenal of weapons. When he can string them all together consistently, he is going to be a handful for any opposition.

Defensively Sound

For as long as most of us can remember, the Timberwolves have been a disaster defensively and actually quite powerful on the offensive end. This season, it looks like it could be the opposite.

The Nuggets are full of offensive talent, so holding them to just 100 points in four-and-a-half quarters is no mean feat. Minnesota finished the evening with an elite 91.7 defensive rating and now hold a 104.6 mark for the entirety of the season. That ranks them 12th overall after failing to crack the top-20 since 2014.

After a slow start, Robert Covington has come into his own defensively over the last few outings. Josh Okogie seems to have somehow ramped his intensity up another notch or two. Treveon Graham provides a sturdiness defensively. And Karl-Anthony Towns deserves a ton of credit for his defensive growth.

If Ryan Saunders’ squad can keep up this defensive work, they may just find their identity forming on that end of the floor. A pleasant change of scenery indeed.