After reading Kyle Theige’s game preview, it looked like the Minnesota Timberwolves were primed to earn their second 5-game win streak of the season. Even after defeating the Dallas Mavericks just 48 hours ago, things looked even better as they were now out TWO all-stars and a handful of key role players. Sure, the Wolves were out their pair of energy lightning rods in Patrick Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt, but they still had Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell. However, after the Mavs were able to withstand an early KAT barrage (7 straight points to start the game), you knew things were going to get hairy. Especially after Marquese Chriss threw in a Hail Mary 22-footer. Yes, the same Marquese Chriss who last played a NBA game on December 25, 2020 and was signed less than 24 hours ago. By the time I had dug that nugget up on Basketball-Reference.com, Dallas had sneakily crept ahead by double-digits in the first half on the back of pesky offensive rebounding and 2nd chance points (10-0 advantage at the half). If you told me that Vando had put on his Dwight Powell costume (4 OREB in the 1st half), I would’ve believed you and asked who his costume guy was. It was unsurprising that the defense was struggling so mightily without Pat Bev and Vando.
Mavs, without 3 of their top-4 scorers (Doncic, Porzingis, Hardaway), had a 130 ORTG in the 1st half.— Alan Horton (@WolvesRadio) December 22, 2021
That ranks in the 95th percentile.
Would the Wolves “wake up” in the 2nd half?
Is Leandro Bolmaro the first NBA player to go by the name “Leo” since the 1950’s?
No and no.
Credit where credit’s due. Malik Beasley’s hot shooting 3rd quarter and Nathan Knight’s 2nd half effort actually helped the Wolves overcome a big deficit during the 4th quarter, even taking a brief 1-point that lasted midway through the 4th. However, that momentum was short lived after a pair of defensive goaltending calls went against the Wolves, as well as a couple timely Dorian Finney-Smith corner triples late. Jalen Brunson was in full command of the game all night as he easily discarded what remained of a Beverley-Vanderbilt-less Wolves defense with simple pick and roll actions. Brunson stuck the final nails in the coffin with 8 points and 3 assists in the final 5 minutes of the game, ending an otherwise ugly performance by the Wolves. who now drop back down to 9th in the Western Conference standings.
What looked to be another marquee performance by KAT (26 points on 14 FGA) was ruined by a disgusting shooting performance by D’Lo (1 for 11 3P). A great night from Beas (6/12 3P) was negated by a lopsided turnover battle (17 to 10). It’s easy to make excuses for this loss and chalk it up to poor shooting variance, or not having 3 starters from our G.L.E., but none of those are legit tonight. Dallas didn’t shoot the ball much better and were missing way more starters/rotation players than Minnesota was. To me, it was a classic example of the Wolves coming into the game thinking they could roll over a seemingly easier opponent than the ones they had just defeated. A young team with a 4-game winning streak simply tried to look past the opponent on the floor. The Wolves were the same team that started this win streak by saying that they wouldn’t get too full of themselves again.
Malik Beasley: "I think we let our defense dictate our offense... It made us feel like we had to play hero ball... We could've moved the ball around better and got it to the big fella (KAT)."— YoLeo (@Y0Leo) December 22, 2021
So did we get the New Wolves or Old Wolves tonight?
Neither. We got the Ol_ Wolves.
Omega - Naz Reid
Short and to the point. Naz can put the ball in the bucket and he did just that, efficiently scoring 11 points (4/6 FG) with 3 rebounds and 2 blocks tonight. I loved seeing him start the 2nd half with KAT in the frontcourt. Wolves could possibly use that when they face Rudy Gobert and the Jazz next.
CAPTION THIS pic.twitter.com/7b0dznt0lI— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) December 22, 2021
Delta - Nathan Knight
The Dark Knight was great in his limited minutes tonight. Bolmaro was ineffective in his limited role as a starter, but his Iowa Wolves compatriot would’ve made Jarred Vanderbilt proud with his tenacity out there. The box score shows just 3 points, 4 rebounds (3 OREB), and 1 block in 13 minutes (Team-high +8), but his energy was a welcome sight considering how flat the Wolves looked. Coach Finch didn’t sound overly convinced that Knight would receive a ton of minutes moving forward, but I trust that he can carve out a useful role if he maintains this level of play while the roster is still ailing.
Nathan Knight low-man block on Boban, tremendous help defense pic.twitter.com/Oajt8njH9O— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) December 22, 2021
Coach Finch on Knight: "There's always a role for guys who play hard & play the right way... It's also hard to play 15 guys... It's a little more situational right now, but we'll keep an eye on it... (Vando) earned his way thru playing garbage time."— YoLeo (@Y0Leo) December 22, 2021
Beta - Malik Beasley
If we get this version of Malik on offense moving forward, then things will look a lot better for anyone who roots for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He nearly single-handedly dragged the Wolves back into it during his 3rd quarter run. Unfortunately, he didn’t make another shot to finish the game (2 FGA in the 4th) and his 4 turnovers were way too high for his role. Overall, it was still an encouraging night for him. Beas finished second on the team with 22 points, 3 rebounds, and just 2 assists.
Malik's SIXTH three-pointer tonight pic.twitter.com/RM7gRf9i7E— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) December 22, 2021
Alpha - Karl-Anthony Towns
I shared about KAT’s dominant performance earlier, but he still deserves the top spot tonight. He hit yet another career milestone as he collected his 5,000th rebound, finishing with 14 tonight. KAT’s 26 point, 14 rebound, 7 assist (5 turnovers), and 2 block night was highlighted by Dirk Nowitzki anointing KAT, “The best shooter big man in the world.”
With his second rebound of the night, @KarlTowns pulled down his 5,000th career rebound. At 26y, 36d, Towns becomes the third-youngest player in NBA history to collect 10,000+ points and 5000+ rebounds in his career: pic.twitter.com/31sHLJW0aU— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) December 22, 2021
KAT has Dirk Nowitzki on notice pic.twitter.com/OnMeqlWpLR— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) December 22, 2021
The Wolves wrap up their 2-game road trip by visiting the Utah Jazz on Thursday at 8:00pm CT. Who will be active on the Wolves roster? Or the Jazz roster? Will the NBA be suspended by then? Or will Coral be suspended (finally)?