An absolutely disastrous week ended appropriately with a fourth loss in seven days for the Wolves, this one in New Orleans where the Pelicans handed them a 122-117 loss.
Last Saturday, the Wolves were sitting one game under .500 with the potential for a successful run into the All-Star break. They proceeded to lose to an injured and tired Nuggets, a barely NBA quality Grizzlies, a thoroughly mediocre Magic, and a Pelicans team riven by the Anthony Davis situation. All that sandwiching a trade deadline at which they were unable to accomplish anything. They now sit at 25-30, but more importantly showed absolutely zero gumption this week. Yes, their own injuries are significant, but there is really no excuse for the consistently poor defense, long stretches of bad execution, and general malaise that seems to have pervaded the squad.
This one started out brightly, with the Wolves controlling the game early and going up as many as 18 points behind a strong start from Karl-Anthony Towns and some Andrew Wiggins buckets. But the Pelicans, forced by the league to play Anthony Davis, fought back into the game behind Davis’ dominant first half and some hot shooting in the second quarter to tie the game at halftime.
The third was the marquee battle between Wiggins and Kenrich Williams that we all anticipated, with Wiggins doing a good job attacking the basket but Williams finding space beyond the arc as well as in transition, where the Wolves failed to consistently defend.
The Pels sat Davis for the final 15 minutes of the game, but still failed to lose, as Jrue Holiday kept them in front through much of the fourth quarter. Towns tried to take over late for the Wolves, but it wasn’t quite enough as Julius Randle made a couple of tough hoops in the lane and then converted at the free throw line to seal the win for the Pelicans.
It was an interesting night for Davis, who returned to the lineup after missing nine games, first with an injury and then being held out during trade talks earlier this week. However, the league informed the Pels that Davis had to play or they risked fines, a threat that seems ludicrous to me. But they complied, and while, much like Jimmy Butler early in the season with the Wolves, Davis heard some boos. But he dominated in his 25 minutes, scoring 32 points. He left the game with about three minutes left in the third, but did not return.
Despite the Wolves shooting 50 percent from the floor, I thought their offense looked stagnant at times, with stationary post-ups for Towns and Wiggins dominating stretches of the game. This particularly hurt them during the Pels’ runs in the second and third quarters. It left the Wolves flat footed and led to transition buckets the other way.
Defensively, they struggled to contain the Pels in the paint, particularly Davis on post-ups and pick-and-rolls, where he got several lob dunks among his 11 field goals. Later, Julius Randle bulled his way through the paint for key hoops.
For the Wolves, not much to write home about. Andrew Wiggins put up one of his better lines: 23-10-7 on 10-17 from the field. He got some favorable match ups against smaller players and exploited them. He didn’t do much in the fourth quarter, but overall one of his better outings despite some poor defense. Jeff Teague made his return from injury and came off the bench. He looked good in his limited minutes.
- The Pels started one undrafted player (Williams, who went for 19 and six) and brought another off the bench for 32 minutes (Tim Frazier, 12-8-9.) Not bad. In addition to those two, they started two second round picks (Darius Miller and Frank Jackson.) The talent is thin, but they have found some guys.
- We can blame injuries all we want, but read the above paragraph again. The Pels were without E’Twaun Moore with injury and just traded Nikola Mirotic.
- I enjoy Josh Okogie, but the shooting has to get better if he’s to have a long-term consistent role.