MINNEAPOLIS — The conference room is a room in every branch of Dunder Mifflin, as well as corporate. We don’t have any conference rooms at the Official HQ of Canis Hoopus. If you’re wondering why it’s because we work out of the Denny’s in Bloomington right off American Blvd W. There are no conference rooms at America’s diner. Our conference room is the robust comments section below. You don’t even have to read the articles! You can scroll right past all of this; someone made that joke years ago. “There are articles at Canis?” There are, indeed. This is one of them. I don’t know if it’s going to be particularly good. It feels like a rocky start.
OK, so basketball. That’s what I am supposed to talk about in this space. There was a game at Target Center at 4 pm vs. the Phoenix Suns, who everyone calls League Pass darlings these days because they have the most attractive trio in the NBA with Ricky Rubio, Devin Booker, and Kelly Oubre. Their style of play under Monty Williams may also have something to do with it. In any case, the eye test agrees with this popular conclusion as their True Attractiveness % is off the charts per numerous face recognition models that I am not able to share with you quite yet.
I don’t know why the game was at 4 pm but it was and the entire thing kind of threw me off. The first quarter was like the Wolves hit snooze a few times. They weren’t all there. The energy was noticeably lacking without Lord Covington, King of the Glovington’s, and Mr. Red Bull, Josh Okogie, available to play. Cov had a death in the family and was out. Okogie has been experiencing left knee soreness, which is becoming a concern as it doesn’t seem to be going away. Jake Layman (left toe sprain) and Treveon Graham (left forearm contusion) were both out, too, as was backup point guard Shabazz Napier — still on the mend from a right hamstring strain that’s kept him a sidelined for 10 games.
Now that we’ve established how shorthanded the Wolves were on the wing we can move to discuss other aspects of the game. (Our Spanish Unicorn and The Mongolian Street Fighter — Britt Robson called Aron Baynes that to me about 4 years ago when he had that samurai bun haircut — did not play either.)
The Wolves obviously lost or else I would’ve written a different lede like, “When they get the ball, you get the fuck out the way.” That’s what Jordan Bell, a spark of light in an annoying game, said afterward when asked about how playing next to KAT — something we finally saw tonight that looked pretty good — compared to running with Kevin Durant. Thank you for your honesty, Mr. Bell. The Canis Points Review Committee awards Jordan +10,000 points to be used in the future comment section debate.
How does it compare playing with KAT vs. KD? Jordan Bell: “It’s the same, when they get the ball, you get the fuck out the way.” pic.twitter.com/xntQu3hoPa— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) November 24, 2019
“I am coming back from a couple injuries,” Bell said after grabbing 9 boards and blocking two shots in 17 minutes.
“I missed most of training camp to injuries. I don’t expect anything to be handed to me, I have to earn everything. People are playing good, you know G [Gorgui Dieng] is playing good, Noah [Vonleh] is playing good, Keita [Bates-Diop] came up and killed it. I think he had like 25 today. When your teammates are doing good, you just cheer for them. You are still winning and you should be happy for them. So, I just wait for my name to be called and when it’s called, just try to produce.”
Bell also had this gem: “You can either not stay ready, go out there, and look like shit, or stay ready, go out there, and produce.” He produced.
One of KAT’s best friends almost got his first career triple-double. That’s D-Book I’m talking about. He was the latest big-name guard to roast the Wolfpack. 35 points, 12 rebs, 9 dimes. The defense was not the issue, though. Aside from Oubre’s 25/11/4 stock performance, nobody on the Suns was flowing offensively. Phoenix’s shooting splits in the win were no bueno: 34.4/28.6/92.3%
Why did the Wolves lose? In short, they missed a ton of threes (12-42), struggled from the charity stripe (10-17) yet again, and failed to maximize Town’s offensive greatness in what’s becoming a frustrating theme in recent losses. NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES, GET TOWNS THE BALL. GET HIM SHOTS. Sorry for the Caps Lock. The Suns zone defense worked, sadly. It won’t always work. Most of the Wolves (and Ryan Saunders) were happy with the shots they registered. It was one of those “we just didn’t make shots tonight” types of games that come fairly often in the league these days. Process good. Results bad. Lather, rinse, repeat.
“I think we did a good job in the zone, actually,” said Towns. “I think we just didn’t make shots. I think we got the shots we wanted out of the zone, we just didn’t make those shots. We had a lot of wing threes that clanked in and out; in the zone, either from the top or from me in the middle, where it hit the wing, it was bang-bang from the wing to the corner, they didn’t go in. We got the shots we wanted out of the zone, I think. It’s more of a false narrative that we didn’t do well in the zone. It was more we didn’t make shots when we did exactly what we wanted to do.”
Only three guys showed up offensively in this one, and two are always expected. Towns had 31, 17 and 4. If the Wolves had an elite passing point guard he would’ve had 45 points. Teague still cannot throw a post-entry pass and it’s wildly maddening to watch, and he’s not the only one that struggles to find KAT (simply the most damning). Karl grew frustrated as the game went along and they couldn’t attack the switches with post-ups on Tyler Johnson, Mikal Bridges, Oubre, and other guys that clearly cannot handle Towns because the Wolves seriously lack strong passers that can deliver him the rock in his spots absent of perfect post position.
Ricky could make these passes blindfolded. The clear drop-off in passing has popped-up every few games since his departure. Even if it’s true that Karl doesn’t always seal-off post defenders all that well, it’s almost become unbelievable to watch how difficult they make this appear to be. THROW THE BALL HIGH IN THE AIR TO KARL’S OUTSIDE HAND AND HE WILL GO GET THE ROCK, I PROMISE YOU, IT’S NOT AS DIFFICULT AS THE RISK-AVERSE JEFFREY MAKES IT SEEM TO BE.
Wiggins was fine, though kind of unspectacular minus that sweet, buttery finger roll he’s unleashed this season. His brief absence from the lineup got him off his rhythm a bit. I was actually shocked to see him foul out. Without checking Basketball Reference, that never happens. Wiggs 4 turnovers hurt. His 3 blocks helped. He certainly wasn’t the reason for the loss.
Wait for it ... Keita Bates-Diop was the third. Give credit to KBD. He belongs in my eyes. His 22 points kept the team alive. He plays smart, with an obvious poise and knowledge of the system. The ceiling might not be all that high with him but there’s an obvious difference between Keita and the other Iowa Wolves in terms of blending into lineups rather than cratering them. Speaking of, Kelan Martin (0-7) and Jaylen Nowell (1-4) struggled to fill-in. Martin was frustrated with his shot, slamming his chair on the bench a few times. Nowell scored his first-career NBA points with an AND1. As for Jarrett Culver ... he missed a couple bunnies at the rim and was 1-5 from deep but displayed excellent shot contesting once again. The rook competes hard on the defensive end. I truly believe with some seasoning that Culver is going to be a STUD.
This game was more than winnable even without all of the depth on the wing that has helped the Wolves leap into the league’s middle class this season. This loss stinks. There’s no other way to put it. Another missed opportunity at home. The biggest thing on my mind walking back to my car in Ramp B: Saunders and the rest of the coaching staff have to devise new and creative ways to get Towns shots. His offensive greatness is undeniable and if they leveraged his scoring ability in this game we wouldn’t be talking about a loss. His teammates also have trust the pass moving forward, throwing the damn ball up to Karl when he gets a small guard or bad defender like Frank Kaminsky in the post (or near it). Trust that he’s going to grab the rock. Karl is going to take care of business. There can’t be 12 minutes stretches without a KAT shot. That’s not going to work.
In conclusion: Conference Room, five minutes. We need to talk about maximizing Karl with the current roster. Meet me there. Except, you know, I mean the comments section.