In a game showcasing much of the NBA’s top young talent, the Minnesota Timberwolves were outlasted in their trip to Dallas.
Minnesota started slowly, as Robert Covington and Jarrett Culver mostly kept them in the game early on. The fact that they held a lead at halftime was a miracle considering how poorly Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins shot the ball, but it’s nice to know they can compete while their main scorers struggle.
The Wolves opened the third frame on fire, most notably KAT who made his first five attempts of the second half.
In the end, it wasn’t quite enough and there were a few things that were glaringly obvious during the game.
First and foremost, Luka Doncic is absolutely ridiculous. He wasn’t at his best tonight, not even close. But the second year player still managed to showcase much of what makes him so special.
I sat and thought about how to effectively contain him in the pick-and-roll outside of just praying he misses shots, and couldn’t come up with anything better than doubling him to get the ball out of his hands. Of course, the downside of that is then that you give the Mavericks a 4-on-3 advantage, which isn’t exactly a great option either.
What most stood out to me about Doncic was the pace with which he played. He never gets sped up. In the PnR, he might be the best I’ve ever seen at keeping a defender in jail after he comes off the screen. That may seem like hyperbole, but he is just so damn good in those situations. It’s impossible to tell if he’s shooting a floater or throwing a lob until the very last moment, and in all he is just one of the best PnR players I’ve ever seen.
While we’re on the Mavs, you can’t say enough about Dwight Powell tonight. It’s disappointing to see the Wolves give a role player 24 points on a perfect 9-9 from the field, but credit where credit is due. Powell made shots tonight and routinely found a way to be in the right spot and convert off of a Luka PnR.
As for the Wolves, Towns was the bright spot on the offensive end. He struggled defensively throughout parts of the game, but he nearly recorded a triple-double (26/9/8).
That kind of sums up the entire Wolves team, though. Offensively they were fine all night, but it’s hard to win giving up 121 points, especially on the road. Their drop scheme in the PnR has yielded better results than years prior, but is definitely still susceptible to big nights from players of Luka’s caliber.
This felt like a game the Wolves could’ve won, but the Mavericks are a good team, with a lot of players playing some of the best ball of their careers.
In particular, Dallas’ bench provided them with a big lift. Jalen Brunson poured in 16 points on 7-8 shooting, complimented primarily by Maxi Kleber’s 12/5 on 4-6 from the field.
Outside of KAT and Cov having strong games, and Wiggs struggling a bit, there were two overarching themes personnel wise for Minnesota. The first being that Jarrett Culver played one of his best games as a pro, showing much of what made him such a desired player pre-draft. Culver had 11/8/6 in total, but a sequence of him stripping a shooter on the way up, bringing the ball up the floor and pulling up for a three showcased what he can be.
The second thing that really, really stood out was the play of Jeff Teague. I don’t want to pile on the guy, but man, something is just not right. He seems to have completely lost his touch and isn’t providing any value on the court right now. I know he’s a great locker room guy, but it’s hard to give a reason as to why he deserves many (if any) minutes right now. Hopefully he turns it around soon, but in the meantime, he’s really hurting Minnesota.
In all, while Dallas has proved to be a formidable foe, this is a disappointing loss. The Wolves hadn’t played since Sunday while the Mavs were on the second night of a back-to-back. You have to be able to take advantage of those times where the schedule works in your favor, and the Wolves failed to do so tonight.