What a difference one month makes.
On November 1st, we opened the month watching a double-digit lead to the Orlando Magic evaporate in the second half and become the Cole Anthony show. It was the second leg of the now-infamous six-game slide, which contained the also-famous 16-point fourth quarter collapse on the road against Memphis.
D’Angelo Russell was the center of a lot of scrutiny during that slide, and rightfully so. Russell found himself shooting inconsistently, choosing to take poor shots out of rhythm, and was a major offender of the bigger problem in not sharing the ball enough on offense.
Since the Minnesota Timberwolves got into their mid-month home stand against Sacramento, a stretch up to now in which they have won six of the last seven, Russell has averaged 21 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds, lifting season averages. While a tinge inefficient, he leads the team in net rating for the season, and posts a nice number of 20.6 during the seven-game stretch. Not the best on the team, fifth to be exact. It’s still being an impactful player while winning in Minnesota. That’s an exception to the D-Lo rule we have seen so far.
All to say, Russell is ending the month playing a great stretch of basketball, capped by his best game in a Timberwolves jersey on Saturday. The month isn’t over, but so far we’ve seen a tail of two halves from this team, and Russell stepping up is a part of that.
The top two 3-point shooters with at least 4 attempts per game in the second half:— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) November 29, 2021
1) Stephen Curry - 42.6%
2) D'Angelo Russell - 41.1%
Never a bad thing to be in Steph Curry's company.
Have You Heard?
Patrick Beverley isn’t returning any time incredibly soon. That is not a good thing for this team.
Patrick Beverley will be “re-evaluated” in a couple weeks, per Chris Finch— jace frederick (@JaceFrederick) November 26, 2021
Speaking of net rating...
D’Angelo Russell— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) November 24, 2021
- Offensive Rating: 136.7
- Defensive Rating: 83.5
- Net Rating: +53.2pic.twitter.com/aamwer2z3c
Big shoes to fill defensively and intangibly for the Wolves if this lasts more than a couple of weeks. Here are a couple of things I would like to see to get an idea of how we could potentially fill that gap moving forward.
Leandro Bolmaro - I won’t bury the lede. Bolmaro can add a lot to the lineup for his passing and ability to defend at the point of attack, yes. But he also rebounds incredibly well. Rebounding from the guard position and wing is so important. Bolmaro was the first sub in for the Wolves on Saturday. It would be great to see this be more of a trend.
Taurean Prince - BEFORE you start yelling at me keep this in mind - Prince has started to look a little bit more like himself over the last seven games.
Not a plus/minus you love to see, but also not the abysmal performances we were seeing from him at the beginning of the season. Prince’s slight uptick in outside shooting adds another dimension in Beverley’s absence. Prince was unusable before; but gives you the ability to be flexible with lineup size if he can give you reliable minutes. Plus, he brings a veteran presence. That’s never a bad thing given the circumstances.
Jordan McLaughlin - Both of the above actions lead to this. McLaughlin has had his games, but I would like to see more minutes from him being filled by the aforementioned Prince and Bolmaro. McLaughlin has shown clear weaknesses in the ability to shoot effectively and play defense. He’s a table-setter, but I can see that being added to a degree with more Bolmaro minutes and a heavier concentration of the ball being in more effective players’ hands.
Note: There’s still a place for him in the Beverley-less rotation. There will be situations where he will be needed more. I just don’t think he is as necessary when the team is able to get into the ball without him, which trumps his role as an initiator.
This Week’s Look-Ahead
The Wolves have three games this week before getting the weekend off. Those three are as follows:
Monday: home against the Pacers
Wednesday: on the road against the Wizards
Friday: on the road against the Nets
I think two wins can be a reasonable expectation for the team this week. No back-to-backs, two beatable teams, and one you should be able to give a good game to. 2-1 would be a great and ideal scenario, but I don’t think 1-2 is out of the question or something that should make fans grow weary.
Sixers fans knew DLo was hitting those shots before they went in pic.twitter.com/Ew3gdwsoTs— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) November 28, 2021
Wednesday’s win was big-time. Saturday’s win was arguably even MORE big-time. Both games required clutch shots, interesting officiating, and a need to not lose attention. This team should have expectations intact as long as health remains, and the script continues to be flipped from ghosts of Timberwolves’ past (like, the last 3 years).