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Thunder 132, Wolves 126: A Blueprint

Despite the loss, there were encouraging signs

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

At this point in the season, these games are more about the process than the end result. With that in mind, I think it’s fair to label this game as a success. I’m not a huge believer in moral victories, but there were obvious signs of encouragement for the future tonight.

First things first, all of these signs had nothing to do with Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns scored efficiently and got to the foul line frequently, but it didn’t feel like he had his usual impact on the game.

The other four starters, however, really stood in a positive manner. Tyus Jones finished with a double-double (10 points, 13 assists), and was his normal Tyus self. He controlled the pace of the game and found his teammates whenever they were available. All these guys need to do is make themselves available and Tyus will find them. I’m not the biggest fan of Tyus as the long-term starter at PG, but it’s hard to argue with his value as a distributor. If they do make him the guy moving forward, they’ll need to find another perimeter creator.

In a perfect world, that guy could be Andrew Wiggins. I’m not on the proverbial Wiggins Island, but these past few games have been encouraging. It’s so strange how he plays so well against this team. If he could ever just play that way on a regular basis... but I digress. It’s always fun to see him play this way. The talent is obviously still in there.

In my opinion, though, it was really about Josh Okogie and Dario Saric, today. Saric showed much of his pallet offensively, specifically in the third quarter. I’ve always felt like Saric was a better shooter than his percentages indicated and he proved me right for one game. Thanks, Dario. His third quarter was electric.

It really feels like there’s more to Dario’s game than is utilized. He’s shown the ability to lead the break a few times, and he looked great coming off of screens today. He should be used more often.

As for Okogie, he showed the best parts of his game today. He battled Westbrook all day long. Russ put up his typical spectacular stat line (27/10/15), but Okogie was fearless and made him work for his buckets. Beyond that, he showed a bit more offensively than we’ve seen. He finished with a pedestrian 8/1/3, but he added 2 steals and 3 blocks. It was one of those games that made you wonder if he might be capable of filling something more than a reserve role.

It’s strange how the Wolves play well against such a good team. Yeah, they lost, but they played better alright. In my eyes, it’s likely because of the lack of shooting on Oklahoma City. The Wolves defense gets eviscerated against teams with shooting. They still gave up 132 points today, so what do I know. It’s just a theory to try to explain something that makes no sense.

In the end, the wins and losses are mostly irrelevant at this point. That’s what I’m telling myself after losses, at least. In general, the process is much more important than the result. In that sense, today felt like a success.