MINNEAPOLIS — There was never any doubt late in crunch time when the Wolves needed a bucket. The trebuchet loaded up and fired away. A direct hit! With 36.9 seconds to go, Gorgui Dieng nailed the corner three over the fingertips of DeAndre Jordan to give the home squad a two-point lead, 103-101.
Taurean Prince’s 12-foot pull-up jumper tied the game before Shabazz Napier’s missed three, and to spare you the details of some bad zebra-ing that inexplicably gave Brooklyn the ball back with 0.2 seconds, the game headed to overtime where, of course, absolutely no doubt of the outcome existed in our beautiful minds.
In overtime, the Wolves executed well. These are words I hope to type more frequently in 2020 and beyond. The utterly miserable home losing streak finally ended as the buzzer sounded with 122-115 on the scoreboard in Minneapolis. We should be thrilled about not bringing this loathsome streak into the New Year.
Wolves have not won at Target Center for 45 days. https://t.co/qArcryMWAk— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) December 29, 2019
Ok, in truth, there was a lot of doubt. This didn’t feel like a game the Wolves would win at all. But we don’t really do simple wins, Jake. It’s Timberwolves. There is no simple in these parts even with all eyes on the rise. A win is a win, and these days when the Wolves do find a way to get one without KAT in the lineup, it’s largely due to how well “The Old One” plays — that’s what Gorgui means in Wolof, the most widely spoken language in Senegal.
Dieng grabbed 20 rebounds to go with 11 points, 2 dimes, and 4 stocks. If we had an official Canis Hoopus game ball to give, G would certainly get it. He becomes only the 12th player in the NBA this season to grab 20+ rebounds in a game.
In the locker room, Robert Covington asked the longest tenured Wolf if that were the most rebounds he’s ever had. Without pause, G said no. “I had more my rookie year.” After consulting with basketball reference, it turns out Gorgui came up one rebound shy of his record 21 vs. the Rockets in his first season six years ago under Rick Adelman. He also had another 20 rebound game vs. Houston that season. (ROSAS!)
postgame shower, courtesy of RoCo pic.twitter.com/bkcLCyuzpM— Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) December 31, 2019
In his first career start, rookie Kelan Martin hit a vital three with 2:24 in overtime to give the Wolves a 4-point lead. He had nine points and nine rebounds. He belonged out there. Interestingly enough: Martin is now starting to take Josh Okogie’s minutes.
Shabazz Napier dropped a season-high 24 points after looking pretty rough on Saturday night against the Cavs. He eclipsed 2,000 career points in this one, hitting a handful of big shots to keep the offense alive. Cliffs Notes: Napier did his job as the starting point guard. Dieng said he told Napier just to 1) get to the rim and 2) get the ball up; G would take care of the rest if necessary. (His six offensive rebounds prove that.)
Meanwhile, rookie Jarrett Culver also scored a season-high 21 points (previously 20 on Nov. 2 at Washington) going 3-8 from beyond the arc. His family was in attendance. Perhaps they should stick around in town? Culver did not shoot well (46.1 TS%) but did chip-in across the board with five rebounds, three steals, a block, and three assists. This was his third straight game with two or more steals and at least one block. At least he is interested in playing defense, which goes a long way in my mind when thinking about his future in this league. Most importantly, Culver made some really crucial free throws with 1:25 in the 4th. That’s been a perplexing bugaboo in his first NBA season (his 41.4% is almost mind-boggling) so it was satisfying (and relieving) to see him cash those freebies with the game hanging in the balance.
In his third game with the Wolves, another rookie showed promising flashes. That is Naz Reid, who notched 13 points in 20 minutes of action. He knocked down three triples, joining Karl-Anthony Towns as the second Wolves rookie center to have three made treys in a game (Dec. 7, 2015 vs LA Clippers). His shot selection wasn’t awesome by any means but seeing him play freely and obviously comfortable out there was a positive sign. He arrived in Minneapolis at 3 pm for this game. When asked if his game-day routine was thrown off, Reid said his routine is to make the last shot he takes in warmups and that he did that. Simple enough, right? Reid registered season highs in points (13), three-pointers made (3), rebounds (4), assists (1) and minutes played (20).
People on Twitter seem to really want to witness the Reid/Towns pairing once Karl returns. What does Canis think about that? I am more interested in a return to seeing the MoneyTeam* pairing of Karl and G.
*That’s what they used to call themselves back in the day when the started every game together
Saunders says Naz Reid “literally got off the plane and came here [to Target Center].” Says they joked after the game that Naz had 16 shots in 20 minutes but they liked most of them and want him to get the attempts up. “You like that Naz played this way tonight.”— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) December 31, 2019
Robert Covington had 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds in tonight’s overtime victory. He briefly left the contest for the locker room chaperoned by his main man KAT. He returned with his left thumb taped up but there didn’t seem to be any lingering issues afterwards. RoCo also told a funny story at his locker stall about how Culver saw his two dogs at their apartment complex the other week and was in position to run away from them. I don’t recall what breed he said they were but his 9 month year old was already 130 pounds or so. Culver quietly chuckled at his locker.
Keita Bates-Diop continues to show value off the bench, finishing with 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 stocks. KBD is one role player that inspires long-term confidence in. He always seems to be in the right spot and never deviates from his skill-set, which is to say he’s exactly the type of player that appeals to me. (This is also where Okogie is terribly frustrating.)
Spencer Dinwiddie finished with a game-high 36 points. I wish the Wolves had Spencer Dinwiddie. He took some bad, contested shots at the rim but he was SO aggressive. He also could’ve easily had 50 if he were finishing well. Taurean Prince tallied a season-high 14 rebounds but also took plenty of huh? shots on his way to 3-13 from the field.
How about some quotes...
On effort and competitiveness of his players tonight
“I thought that was a heart game. Our guys knew there were going to be opportunities tonight and guys took advantage of them. I think there were a number of things to point to that had to make you feel good. One of them being that we had guys…Kelan didn’t necessarily show up in a big point total but nine points, nine rebounds. He stepped in and started. I thought he did a nice job for the most part on a tough cover like Joe Harris. Then Naz who literally got off the plane from Des Moines and came here. We joked with him, he got 16 shots up, but I loved them. He had 13 points, I think that’s a credit to our G League and the integration. We didn’t need those guys to come in and spend three days trying to learn our system again. I also give a lot of credit to our fans tonight. They were great and they pulled us through, especially in overtime.”
“He made winning plays. That one save, I don’t know how he got to it but we don’t go to overtime without that. He got a tip-in, too, and then having 20 rebounds. I thought he made some great defensive plays for us.”
On why he thought he was able to be impactful on the offensive glass
“They were switching it, so I got a small on me. So, as soon as they switched, I gave him space and I took a quick look. I had the advantage because I had a small on me.”
On if the team is feeling better after two wins in three games…
“Everybody wants wins. It’s a job. You can come in and play the hardest you can and lose a game. Sometimes you lose a game and learn from it. Some games we lost bad but some games we deserved to win. Whatever happens in those situations we are just going to keep working and take each game serious.”
On how he came in late today and how he handled that
“Anywhere I play, however I play I just play the best version of basketball I can play. No matter what situation I’m in just be the best person I can be.”
On how much it helps having Iowa run the same system as the Timberwolves
“A whole bunch. Mentally, physically, going out there and going up and down against other players that have been in the league or going through the same thing I’m going through. It’s helpful in this league, you know the aspects and I’m sure it’s going to continue to do that.”
”This was just an unacceptable performance by us. We were lucky to get to overtime--even at halftime I just felt we weren’t playing at a high level, we were not playing up to Nets standards. It’s hard to figure out why. I didn’t think it was an overtime game, they outplayed us. Give them a lot of credit, they were down guys, they fought, they were extremely competitive, and they deserved the win.”
On whether or not the struggles on offense fed into the defense
”I think that was part of it. We let our missed shots affect our defense. It’s on me, too. I could have made some better moves. It’s all of us, we have to look at it. These are the times where you really reflect on where you want to be as a team. We have a lot to improve on.”
(He doesn’t seem happy.)
On where the game was lost
“Execution, playing hard, you can go down the list and see what’s really messed up.”
On what he feels is missing
”We don’t really know yet. We know we need to go out there with a lot more energy, we know there are a lot more things we can pick up on. We are just not playing like we used to.”
On tonight’s loss
”It’s a tough one. We didn’t play well the whole game and it’s very disappointing.”
On what needs to be fixed
”I think it’s a level of focus. At this point of the season, everybody is a little banged up, but that goes across the board, every team is the same way. It’s more of a mental thing than anything else at this point. You just have to muster up energy, level of focus. There should be a level of maturity throughout this locker room where we have all been through the grind of an NBA season a number of times and you can’t have slides like this. At the end of the day, it’s a lack of focus, a lack of energy.”
To end, in short, winning is cool. All the cool teams do it. All the terrible franchises don’t. I hope the Wolves can reset their focus in the New Year and truly realize the time is now. Even given the constraints, I believe they are capable of being better than this. Every night in the league there are teams winning with stars who are hurt and rosters full of guys our fathers have never heard of. A lot of those teams still find ways to win.
It’s time we do the same, exactly like what happened tonight.