There was an NBA basketball game at Target Center tonight—The Cavaliers beat the Wolves 94-88—But given the level of play you would be forgiven for not recognizing it as such. The game was bereft of star power, with the Wolves missing both Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, while the Cavs were without Kevin Love. The result was two teams lacking a real plan of attack or the level of quality necessary to consistently execute. But the Cavs were the better team throughout and escaped with the deserved victory.
The Cavs took control early, racing out to a double digit lead in the first quarter with the Wolves unable to make shots. The Wolves got within six to close the frame, and that pretty much describes the rest of the game. The Wolves hung around, and even took a one point lead early in the fourth quarter, but in general they were playing from behind the whole night, and they lacked the fire power to get over the hump.
It was a poor shooting performance for the Wolves, something we are growing accustomed to. Without their two big scorers, they really lacked any sort of offensive fulcrum, and much of the night was devoted to lesser players trying to make something happen. Shabazz Napier co-led the team in field goal attempts with 15. He made three of them. Gorgui Dieng went 2 for 8 as his newfound three point stroke abandoned him tonight. Josh Okogie was a dispiriting 0-7. It was that kind of night, as the Wolves alternatively drove into the teeth of the Cavs defense where they struggled mightily to convert, or they were clanging threes (8-37 on the night.)
The defensive performance was better, as the Wolves recorded 17 steals and forced 28 total Cavs turnovers. Of course much of that was the Cavs’ own poor play, but the Wolves showed active hands and an ability to get into passing lanes throughout the game. But the Cavs just had a bit more juice than the Wolves, particularly their young guards. Colin Sexton and Darius Garland led the Cavs with 18 points each, and though they both struggled with turnovers, and Sexton especially shooting the ball, they showed flashes of what makes them tantalizing prospects.
Garland was particularly impressive shooting 8-11 from the field. He made two threes and scored at all three levels, showing good touch from the mid range and around the basket even when confronted with defenders around the rim. Sexton struggled shooting it (5-17) but got to the line 11 times and showed some talent on a few explosive drives to the rim. I hadn’t watched much of either player yet this season, so it was enjoyable to get a good look tonight. I’m not totally sold on either, but you can imagine the path to good NBA players for both of them.
Perhaps the bright spot for the Wolves was Kelen Martin, who got recalled from Iowa in time for this one. He had a career high 17 points, grabbed six boards, and was the most consistently energetic player for the Wolves tonight. Other than Martin, it a blah night for just about everyone.
- The Cavs got to the line 36 times to the Wolves 19, which was a big difference in the contest.
- The Cavs shot 4-20 from three and 26-36 from the free through line.
- Tristan Thompson had a 12-15 double-double
- There are times when Jarrett Culver’s game remind me of a Philly edition Markelle Fultz. His game is just such a mess right now.
- Next up for the Wolves is the Nets at Target Center on Monday.