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Wizards 130, Wolves 109: Rock Bottom

After a demolishing loss to to the 0-5 Wizards, playing on the second night of a back-to-back, one thing is clear: the Timberwolves have no identity.

Washington Wizards v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Timberwolves woes followed them home from Staples Center to Target Center, resulting in an absolute throttling that Wolves fans won’t soon forget.

The 0-5 Washington Wizards came to Minneapolis on the second night of a back-to-back without Russell Westbrook, who sat out for rest purposes. Should be a winnable game, right?

Not for Ryan Saunders’ squad sans Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie. From the jump, the Wizards just had a different energy than the Wolves, which is embarrassing considering Washington’s schedule and that Westbrook sat out.

Simply put, this loss is extremely telling about the Timberwolves culture. It’s easy to get up for games when you’re feeling great, coming off a win, and want to stay hot. What matters far more is how you respond when a game, or a stretch of games, doesn’t go your way.

The Timberwolves lost Karl-Anthony Towns to a wrist dislocation in a big win in Salt Lake City last week and then lost Josh Okogie to a hamstring strain in a beatdown at Staples Center at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers the next day.

How did they respond? With two gut-wrenching, embarrassing, and textbook examples of how to roll over when the going gets tough, instead of standing back up and fighting back. The lack of fight in this team shows a lack of leadership.

D’Angelo Russell appears to want no part in making his teammates better. Malik Beasley comes out with energy in the first quarter before tapering off in the subsequent three quarters. Ricky Rubio struggles to effectively get the offense organized and running discernible action. And Ryan Saunders’ messages, whatever they may be, are falling on deaf ears.

Major change needs to happen inside the locker room before the Wolves see any changes on the floor. Whether that is threatening to bench D’Angelo Russell, some, let’s call it “spirited” conversations taking place, or the Ricky Rubio asserting himself as he feels he may need to, something needs to happen. It better happen fast, before the season gets away from the Wolves and we’re left to spin the tankathon machine or live on trade simulation websites,

Tonight, the Wolves fell behind early in the first quarter because they were careless with the ball, had no desire to stop ball-handlers from getting into the lane, and often took rushed shots. Beasley came out hot with 9 points in the first few minutes, and tacked on three more later in the period. Bradley Beal torched the Wolves for 14 first quarter points and Minnesota responded by turning it over four times to Washington’s zero. Washington took a 37-25 lead into the second quarter.

In the second quarter, Minnesota looked better largely because they moved the ball much better and were able to run more offense than they did in the first frame. Naz Reid and Jake Layman were both excellent in the quarter. Reid got deep positioning in the post thanks to a few ball reversals that confused the Wizards defense and made two nice left-handed finishes over his right shoulder, before flashing some chemistry with D’Angelo Russell in the hand-off and roll game. Layman had three nice takes the cup, a 3, and some inspiring defensive plays that led to him finishing at +13 heading into the halftime break, where the Wolves trailed by just three, 60-57.

To put it kindly, the wheels came off in the third quarter. D’Angelo Russell looked like he didn’t want to play, Malik Beasley was timid, and the Wolves couldn’t conjure up any stops to prevent the game from getting away from them once Jarrett Culver and Naz Reid had to exit with their fourth fouls early in the quarter. Washington outscored Minnesota 40-14 in the third quarter behind a barrage of 3s and out-muscling the Wolves inside with Thomas Bryant and Rui Hachimura. Scott Brooks also got 11 points in the quarter from Bradley Beal, who clocked out after three quarters with 31 points on 12/20 shooting, 7 assists and just 2 turnovers.

The Wolves lack of offensive identity beyond Karl-Anthony Towns was on full display after halftime. The team ran almost no action, had multiple no-pass possessions, and the team’s turnovers became contagious no matter who was on the floor, which resulted in a 100-71 Wizards lead heading into the fourth.

The Wolves’ garbage time five of Jordan McLaughlin, Jarrett Culver, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, and Jarred Vanderbilt played with good energy in the fourth, helping Minnesota win the quarter 38-30.

Edwards started attacking the rim more in the fourth, which he neglected to do in the first three, and much of the last two games in Los Angeles. Through five NBA games, it is evident he finds his rhythm much more quickly attacking the paint rather than by shooting step-back 3s, which he has unfortunately fallen in love with. Edwards finished with 17 points on 7/17 from the floor to go along with 3 rebounds, and 2 assists.

Jarred Vanderbilt continued his solid play on both ends as well in the fourth quarter, tallying 6 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal and was +8 in his 12 minutes of action (the entire fourth).

After an embarrassing 130-109 thrashing, the Wolves will look ahead to their Sunday matinee with the (likely) 1-4 Denver Nuggets, who will be without Michael Porter Jr., here at Target Center at 6 PM CT.