Well, that was certainly an experience. This game was about as unappealing as they come to begin the night, as both Kevin Love and Karl-Anthony Towns were out. Of course, though, nothing is ever truly unappealing with the Timberwolves.
The first two and a half quarters were fantastic. Nearly every single player on the roster found a way to contribute positively early on, and then everything went south. Once up 25 points, Minnesota gave up a 30-4 run between the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters. Only the Wolves.
Thankfully, the Wolves responded to that with a 14-0 run of their own to seal the deal and leave Cleveland victorious. How about that, a two game winning streak!
In all seriousness, though, it’s been a lot of fun to see this team play well over the past several games, including the two-point loss against Milwaukee. We’ll go through the individual performances in a minute, but the defense and effort level of most of the guys has been great. The offense is still a work in progress, although they did score at ease against a very poor Cavs defense (32 assists!!). The less glamorous end is an area where you can see the process that has been driven home all year long start to pay off though.
Additionally, it’s great to see this team show some resolve when things don’t go well. This could’ve gone south in a big way and turned into a very Wolves-y loss. The ability to respond was paramount.
Now, onto some individual performances...
- Andrew Wiggins returned tonight, and it was rather uninspiring. He was mostly disinterested on defense, and shot really poorly from the field (6-19). He did contribute 7 rebounds and 4 assists, so that’s a bonus. In general he just didn’t seem quite right though.
- This had to have been Jarrett Culver’s best game as a pro. He finished with 14/3/3/4/2 on 6-11 from the field. Best of all, he made a couple threes. He seems to be more confident and comfortable on the floor, and it showed tonight as he was very aggressive. We’re starting to see the player we thought we were getting on a more consistent basis. Just when I thought I was out, JC bring me back in.
- You really can’t say enough about the two standout vets, Shabazz Napier and Gorgui Dieng. Bazz was super efficient, putting together 21 points and 7 assists on 8-10 from the floor. He was in total control of the game, and it’s abundantly clear he’s the best point guard on this roster. G might have just been the best player on the floor all night. He really dominated the game. His final stat line shows as such, posting 22/13/6 along with 4 blocks. He hit 4 threes! He was so dang good out there. I think I speak for all of us when I say that the Gorgui Dieng resurgence has been the best part of an otherwise rough year thus far. So happy for that guy.
- Kelan Martin looks like a real player! The shooting percentages aren’t there yet, but given his reputation it seems that it’s merely a matter of time before that comes around and he’s finding other ways to impact the game. It may be wise for Minnesota to lock him up before the shooting turns around too much, although that’s probably somewhat counter-intuitive. I don’t know, I just love watching the guy play. He’s better than Josh Okogie right now by a wide margin.