I’m not a big believer in moral victories, but that was as close as you get to a legitimate moral victory. Minnesota has been ravaged by injury and illness, but still competed their tails off against the beat team in the NBA. I mean, just look at all they were missing tonight.
I will buy the jersey of tonight’s leading scorer if the Wolves win this game. pic.twitter.com/miceJgKL83— Tim Faklis (@timfaklis) January 2, 2020
That’s a ton of production, and frankly the Wolves had no business being in that game from start to finish.
You still have to give a lot of credit to Milwaukee. They really are the best team in the league and it’s not hard to see why. They protect the rim defensively, and get great looks through Giannis on the offensive end.
My favorite parts of watching the Bucks is their defense, though. It’s such an interesting scheme and it’s worked so well for the better part of two years now. As the league has shifted towards shots at the rim and threes, the Bucks have decided to put all of their effort into protecting the paint. They’re so so good at it, with both Giannis and Brook Lopez as some of the league’s premier rim defenders.
The other aspect of their scheme that you saw a lot of tonight is that they give up a lot of threes, but they generally just leave poor shooters wide open and bank on them missing, while staying attached to your good shooters. It’s why Robert Covington was only able to get up 3 FGA all night. On Minnesota’s end, that’s frankly inexcusable, but still.
Anyways, the Wolves competed their tails off tonight. There are so many guys to credit tonight, so let’s stick with a few of the guys who stood out the most.
- Although he’s maybe not part of the long-term future, Shabazz Napier was awesome tonight. He was in total control of the offense, and his shooting was paramount. They needed everything they got from him tonight.
- Jarrett Culver struggled again with his outside stroke, but he also did this.
Jarrett Culver's poster slam on Robin Lopez, just the dunk and replays pic.twitter.com/yhEi0dNYcZ— CJ Fogler (@cjzer0) January 2, 2020
That sort of aggression and confidence is what we’ve been looking for from Culver. This is a good starting point on the road to improvement for him.
- Josh Okogie’s rough patch continued tonight. He just doesn’t look right out there. We have to hope he figures it out again soon.
- Naz Reid is a really fun player during this stretch, but I think it’s become apparent that he’s just too slow to ever be a competent defender at the NBA level. It’s too bad because the shooting is really fun, but he probably won’t be able to stick in the league for that reason.
- As a whole, the defense tonight was really inspiring. The Wolves entered the night as 18 (!!) point underdogs, and the defense this rag tag bunch played kept them in the game the entire 48 minutes. If they can find a way to keep up that level of effort and intensity when they get healthy again, we might be really cooking here.