What a quintessential Timberwolves game.
If one was to choose a game to watch to encapsulate this futile season, I would heartily recommend watching this delightful match in late January where the title-contending Chicago Bulls hosted the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Timberwolves, for their part, were missing their new marquee free agent, Jake Layman, who had been promised to change the direction of the franchise. However, the Bulls were also shorthanded, playing without Wendell Carter Jr and Otto Porter.
The Wolves were their utmost selves tonight. They launched 44 threes, making a respectable 14 of them. However, this was buoyed by Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins shooting a respective 4 of 8 and 4 of 10 from beyond the arc. Not counting Shabazz Napier (who actually played pretty well tonight), the rest of the Wolves shot 4 of 23 from beyond the arc.
The Wolves’ defense was terrible. They were outrebounded 50 to 43 and gave up 56 points in the paint. Their free throw shooting was miserable, shooting 54 percent at the charity line, with some absolutely awful misses from Wiggins and Jarrett Culver.
The bad news is it could have been so, so much worse. At one point in the second quarter, the Wolves were down 19 and looked like they were going to get run out of the gym by an abject Bulls team. We were about to have a full-on firestorm, fire everyone type of loss. But, this being the Bulls, the Wolves slowly crawled back into the game.
The Wolves penultimate stars were the best and worst versions of themselves. Andrew Wiggins was nonexistent in the first half, the definition of his floating, aimless self, barely registering on the court. Then, for whatever reason, he exploded in the second half and almost won the game in the fourth quarter with continued hard drives to the rim. His final stat line, 25 points, 9 assists, and 5 rebounds, looks like an amazing Wiggins game, which the second half was. But there is no accounting for the Jekyll and Hyde mysteries that confound us in his sixth year.
Towns, like Wiggins, on the surface seemed like he played well. He easily scored 40 points, as the Bulls were forced to use a combination of Luke Kornet and Cristiano Felicio to guard him. Towns scored at will from beyond the arc and inside the paint, easily pivoting past the Bulls defense. But he also played terrible defense, picked up nonsensical fouls in the third quarter which landed him on the bench, spent a majority of the game complaining to the refs, and impulsively took wild shots when he felt the ball had strayed too far from his hands.
And it’s hard to blame him! The Wolves looked so listless and apathetic in the first half that someone had to do something. But Towns is at his worst when he is pressing and forcing the action, such as when he over-chases blocks and allows his man to slip in for an easy putback dunk.
It is hard to tell where the Wolves go from here. No one won the Jarrett Culver vs Coby White battle tonight. The Wolves reserves looked like a batch of G-league players that they are. Josh Okogie might need to pick up an NBA skill or two. Sans Jeff Teague, the Wolves were content to trot out bench lineups without any shot creation, which led to a delightful four minutes to open the second quarter where the Wolves did not score a point.
Most importantly, like any perfect Wolves game, this one ended in a loss. Seven losses in a row and February’s schedule is murderous. Wolves land is going to be dark for some time.