In a battle between two teams dealing with several injuries, Atlanta’s depth ultimately won out. It’s clear that the Wolves do not have a huge margin for error, and the absences of D’Angelo Russell and Patrick Beverley in particular were killers tonight against Trae Young.
While Young did engage in a bit of his usual foul-baiting antics, it would be doing him a disservice to focus on that, and not on the complete mastery he showed in the pick-and-roll. Some of that does entail the foul-baiting, sure, but Young got whatever defender he wanted switched onto him all night by dragging the screen out, and then firing skip passes to either corner. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot in particular was a beneficiary. TLC has stepped up into the starting lineup with the absence of Bogdan Bogdanovic, Cam Reddish, DeAndre Hunter, and others, and he was huge tonight, pouring in 23 points, most of which came from his seven three-pointers.
While the Wolves did find themselves in scramble situations frequently, it was infuriating to watch them refuse to close out hard to TLC and run him off the three-point line.
Chris Finch on Atlanta making 25 3s tonight:— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) December 7, 2021
"I mean, we just stopped short. Our urgency to contest shots was not there. We've been really good at that all year... We just kept stopping short and stopping short."
Those 25 3s made by Atlanta, by the way, are a franchise record.
Hawks scoring tonight...— Alan Horton (@WolvesRadio) December 7, 2021
2ptrs -- 30p on 37% FG (15/41)
3ptrs -- 75p on 51% FG (25/49)
ATL's 25 3PTM are the most the Wolves have ever allowed in a game, a Hawks franchise-record & the 3rd most in an NBA game this season.
Needless to say, there wasn’t much positive to take away from tonight.
Leandro Bolmaro go this first career start tonight, and Trae Young gave him a few “welcome to the NBA” experiences, namely in picking at Bolmaro’s aggressive nature to earn trips to the foul line. I know Bolmaro is a fan favorite of sorts, but replacing Beverley and Russell with Bolmaro really hurt the Wolves, as he didn’t offer a ton of resistance defensively and didn’t make Trae work as much on defense as Russell could have.
The other guy who I, personally, didn’t think really brought it tonight was Anthony Edwards. The box score says he scored 20 points and had 7 assists, which is fine, but Edwards never really made his presence felt on the floor. That’s part of the danger of relying so heavily on a 20-year old, as Ant’s inconsistency is a lot harder to overcome with Russell available to take some of the offensive creation responsibility.
Again, like it or not, D’Angelo Russell’s importance to the Minnesota Timberwolves shows up every single night, whether he’s active or not.
The one bright spot for Minnesota tonight was Malik Beasley, who seemingly was hellbent on keeping them in the game all on his own in the late third and fourth quarter. Beasley was on fire in the second half, and finished with 24 points, making 6 of his 13 attempts from beyond the arc. If the Wolves can anything close to that from Beasley with some consistency, it will change the outlook of their offense moving forward.
Lastly, even though it came at the expense of the Wolves, it’s hard not to marvel at least a little about the way Atlanta moves the ball on offense out of their Trae Young-led pick-and-rolls. Even while shorthanded, the lineups Nate McMillan was able to mix-and-match with fit together so nicely all night long. The way their offense spaces the floor, and puts their secondary playmakers in a position to succeed is something that the Wolves have been searching for all season.
Hopefully they find it Wednesday, when they host division-rival Utah.