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Cavaliers 100, Wolves 98: Coaching Defeat

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The Wolves don’t want your charity. They want losses.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Harrison Barden/Getty Images

Coming into this game, there was a small glimmer of hope. A tiny sliver of light in this dark, dark era of Timberwolves basketball. After stymying a better version of this team less than 24 hours ago, it looked like we were primed for a 2-0 win streak.

Oh, Timberwolves. We know better than this.

It was clear from the get-go that the Wolves were going to lay down to get run over. Despite sitting out Andre Drummond and Larry Nance Jr., the Wolves didn’t want the Cavs’ charity. The Wolves were determined to disappoint what tiny fan base they had remaining with their anemic offense and defense. Anthony Edwards, who’s still new to this Wolves “culture,” wasn’t quite onboard with the Wolves plan by showing off a few impressive plays. He would finish the game with just a 13/3/2/1 line.

His rookie counterpart, Jaden McDaniels, was also active early. He, along with the rest of the bench unit, kept the offense humming with crisp ball movement to break the Cavs zone. Something the starters were not able to do. Big Mac would finish the game with 11 points and 4 rebounds.

It didn’t long for the true Wolves to reveal themselves. The unselfishness and marksmanship dissipated while the Cavs continued to attack the paint and run in transition. At one point, I’m pretty sure the Wolves appeared to believe that they must use a minimum of 22 seconds each offensive possession. Saunders continued mostly roll with his platoon swaps, seemingly unaware he can mix starters with bench players for more than just 2 minutes a half.

Final play of the half summarized how I think the Wolves played. With a chance to run the clock down to less than 7 seconds and cut the lead down from 6, Russell took a questionable step back 3-pointer with enough time for the Allen to rebound the ball and outlet to a streaking Sexton, who drew a careless foul from Beasley with 2 seconds remaining. He would sink both and instead of trying to coax a foul or get a desperation shot off, Russell simply took the outlet, wrapped up the ball with both hands, and let time expire as if they were about to win a game (Ricky would have a similarly bad play to end the 3rd quarter).

Passive. Uninspired. Careless.

The Wolves opened up the second half with a play I don’t think I’ve ever seen professional basketball team do. Okogie found himself without a dribble on the right block with Sexton guarding him. He continued to literally twirl around on his pivot foot roughly 5 times before taking a 6th pirouette and shooting a 13-foot fadeaway. I guess this is what “Coach” Saunders envisioned when he (and Prigioni) installed a read & react offense. I guess there’s absolutely no budging from that allowed.

I need to get this off my chest regarding Saunders. If Michael Jordan was out for 2 weeks, do you think Phil Jackson would continue rolling the triangle offense? If Tim Duncan was out for 2 weeks, do you think Gregg Popovich would still be dumping it down low to Fabricio Oberto? If Nikola Jokic is out, do you think Mike Malone would have Bol Bol operating out of the high post?

So if Karl-Anthony Towns is out, the key cog to this read & react offense, why is Ryan Saunders still rolling with the same game plan?

As I’m writing this halfway through the 3rd quarter, there appears to be no good takeaways from this one. Unless Ricky throws a lob to Ant for a between-the-legs alley-oop, this game was a complete and abject failure.

The offense was bad.

The defense was bad.

BDLO was bad.

The rookies and Jaylen Nowell.

Beasley was bad.

Ricky was bad.

The bigs.

The effort was bad.

The opponent was bad.

Above all else, the coaching was extremely bad.

Game notes:

  • The Wolves actually took a 1 point lead early in the 4th quarter because of the play of the second string. What did Saunders think? He went back to his classic 2 point guard lineup. The Cavs immediately retook a 8 point lead and never looked back. There was a wild rally to finish the game, but it was too little too late as the Cavs lead never got within a single possession. The final score wasn’t indicative of the story of this game. If anything, it just presents word salad fodder for Saunders to use in the presser. A presser that I have 0 interest listening to today.
  • Naz Reid checked in early in the 2nd for the first time since last Wednesday and made his first 2 field goal attempts. He also added 2 triples in the 4th quarter to help the Wolves get their last lead of the game. Overall, he was understandably outmatched against the defensive-minded Jarrett Allen. I expect better days ahead for him.
  • Jaden McDaniels attempted 2 soul-stealing dunks on Javale McGee, but went 0-2. He ended up crushing one on Allen in the 4th though so I love that he’s keeping that same energy.
  • Josh Okogie continues to confidently launching bricks at the rim while being completely scared of shooting anything in the painted area. Either his hamstring issue is still bothering him, or he has completely regressed. Concerning either way. He was a team-worst -12 tonight.
  • I don’t think this is a hot or particular outlandish take, but what is D’Lo if his shot isn’t falling? He has some passing chops when/if he chooses to activate it, but it certainly doesn’t happen every game.
  • The Cavs got an inspired effort from Collin Sexton and Jarrett Allen, but Rosas favorite Darius Garland was the one who essentially iced the game with a beautiful floater over Ed Davis. (Video incoming)