There have been some brutal, brutal losses to cover and write about throughout the years. It feels like we’ve made every excuse in the book, trying with all our might to spin things in a positive light, mostly thinking about the potential long-term gains over the short-term losses.
Tonight is one of the most inexcusable losses I can remember.
The Memphis Grizzlies are down both Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson, Jr., as well as Justise Winslow. Minnesota was at full strength tonight.
The Minnesota Timberwolves led by double digits in the second half of this game and inexplicably threw it away.
The players are surely to blame (we’ll get there), but many of the coaching decisions at the end of the game raised questions.
The Minnesota Timberwolves simply cannot afford to play Juancho Hernangomez in important closing time minutes. He absolutely kills the team. He doesn’t rebound, he has reverted to his pre-Minnesota shooting norms, and his defense is a killer. If you are not able to stay in front of Kyle Anderson, who is literally nicknamed “Slo-Mo”, to the point that you have to give him enough space to launch his slow-motion three-pointer after staring you down, you cannot play the 4.
You know who I miss? Every PF Karl-Anthony Towns has ever played with not named Juancho Hernangomez.— Katie Davidson (@ByKatieDavidson) January 14, 2021
On top of that, sadly, Ricky Rubio has been just terrible in his second stint in Minnesota. It is such a bummer but there’s really no other way to put it.
Ryan Saunders may not be at fault for how poorly those two guys have played, but he certainly is at fault for continuing to play them in crunch time.
If confidence is a requirement for competence, then those guys just can't be in the rotation— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) January 14, 2021
So Ryan's solution is to..... put Ricky out there and keep Juancho out there?— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) January 14, 2021
What on Earth is he thinking?
I just, I don’t know, man. That was brutally frustrating.
For what it’s worth, Ryan’s job here isn’t easy. I think that the simple solution in Juancho’s spot would be to play Jarred Vanderbilt, but that doesn’t fix their Rubio issue. I love what Vanderbilt has done so far, but do they trust him enough to play PF in crunch time? Or do they still want to go small with JO at the 4, while Rubio plays the 1? That seems to be the difficult question to answer.
If you’re going to have to play two non-shooters together anyways, I don’t see what can hurt from rolling out the Russell/Beasley/Okogie/Vando/KAT lineup at this point, but again that isn’t an easy choice.
At the end of the day this is yet another frustrating loss. I’ll note Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and Malik Beasley played well. Minnesota got next-to-nothing from anyone else, and that was that.
The Wolves will need to rebound on Friday in the second leg of this baseball-style series with Memphis.