That was some good tanking. At this point in the season, one can only hope that the Wolves are able to take a realistic look at their roster and the rest of the NBA and know that it is in their best interest to lose some games.
Of course, this is not in everyone’s best interest. The Wolves can’t sit Karl-Anthony Towns, who is on his way to a potential All-NBA nomination to secure a larger contract. Nor does Ryan Saunders necessarily want to lose games, as he is theoretically coaching for his job.
But the Wolves can do small things, things which I shall pretend are done with the intention of realizing where they are.
Want to play Gorgui Dieng for the first time in weeks, knowing that he will put up a shot as soon as he gets the ball? Why not.
Want to trot out a 2-3 zone and see what happens? Sure, it only exacerbated the number of threes that the Wolves gave up in this game.
How about refusing to stagger the starters in the first half, giving up some softball lineups with Jerryd Bayless, Cam Reynolds, Keita Bates-Diop, Anthony Tolliver, and Gorgui Dieng? That is an easy way to lose the game.
The other option, of course, is perhaps the more realistic option, where the team continues to make confounding decisions.
The Wolves were mostly able to keep the game respectable, as the Jazz did not run up the score until the last five minutes of the game. There was even a point in the third quarter where the Wolves went on a run and got the game within one point, looking like they might make the Jazz work a bit harder for the victory, but that quickly dissipated.
This was always going to be a tough game. The injuries continue to mount for the Wolves, as Robert Covington remains out and Jeff Teague, Derrick Rose, and Luol Deng were out. This meant that we got some extended Jerryd Bayless minutes tonight, which typically vacillates between exhaling in relief as you peek through your fingers covering your eyes to attempting to claw out your eyes in disgust. This game leaned more towards the latter.
Karl-Anthony Towns had his typical dominant game with 26 points, 12 boards, and 4 assists all in 27 minutes. Per usual, he struggled with foul trouble and, after getting a bit feisty on offense at the end, fouled out with 4 minutes to go in the game.
It’s getting a bit ridiculous with Towns. Most of his fouls are coming from stupid fouls on defense or due to being overaggressive on offense. Hopefully, he can re-calibrate over the offseason.
As far as the other Wolves, Tyus Jones played surprisingly few minutes (29) considering the state of the roster. In those 29 minutes, he scored 12 points and dished out 9 assists. Seems like we could have used a bit more of that.
It is beginning to feel a bit mean to pile on with Andrew Wiggins, particularly after he had a relatively fine game, but he still was inefficient from the field, 6 of 17, and contributed little else. If we were to place small forwards in tiers based upon orders of magnitude of impact, how many tiers away would Joe Ingles be from Andrew Wiggins? It was hard not to think of that tonight.
Dario Saric played few minutes as well, only 22, and Josh Okogie was limited to 16. Both had unnoticeable games, but that is partially due to their low playing. Perhaps there is a sneaky tank agenda going on here.
The bench was, well, bad. This was not just the bench’s fault, but it is hard to look good when the defense is an absolute mess. Jon Krawczynski from The Athletic summarized it best below.
Every single defensive possession for the Wolves includes a mad dash by an out-of-position defender out to a wide open 3-point shooter.— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) March 15, 2019
The Wolves lost the three-point battle 13-5. They were outrebounded, made fewer free throws, and gave up 60 points in the paint. Amazingly, the Jazz had an outstanding Moreyball evening, as they scored 39 points from deep, 60 points in the paint, and made 19 free throws. If my late night math is correct, 118 of their 120 points were from high-efficiency areas. That means the only long-two the Jazz made of the evening was the out-of-bounds play where Kyle Korver barely stepped on the three-point line as he made a deep shot.
This was basically the expected result heading into the game, but that does not mean it was any less depressing seeing the Wolves continue to be outclassed. Taking a look at the upcoming schedule, it is probably best to get used to this feeling.