MINNEAPOLIS — Aiming to end the season on a high note, the Wolves dropped another game Saturday afternoon against the depleted Celtics.
Boston’s core players besides Jayson Tatum didn’t suit up as the season nears its conclusion before they’ll take part in the play-in tournament—that includes Jaylen Brown (left scapholunate surgery), Kemba Walker (left cervical nerve irritation), Marcus Smart (right calf contusion), Robert Williams (left foot; turf toe) and Tristan Thompson (left pectoral strain). Yet, that didn’t matter. Boston rolled right through the Wolves ahead of Sunday’s season-finale vs. the Dallas Mavericks at Target Center.
Towns started the afternoon roasting Luke Fornet—forced into starting with Thompson and Williams resting with injuries—and it seemed KAT could pound the interior well enough to make this one tough for the Celts. But defensive issues once again proved too large to overcome. It was 37-26 after the first, 66-47 at halftime, 89-74 heading to the fourth, and ultimately another 15 point loss in a season of blowouts.
Even with no real incentive to win, Brad Stevens’ club torched the 27th rated defense that must make huge strides during the offseason. That will start with figuring out the long-term question of who can hold down the 4-spot, sandwiched between Jaden McDaniels and Towns, in a meaningful way that ties the core together and cures the defensive woes that too often result in results like this.
“We’re not gifted enough to do it on the fly,” Towns said about the defensive issues. They have to stick to the system. “I thought we wasted a day to build our foundation.”
Jayson Tatum led the way with 26 points and 11 rebounds. He’s always an electric talent to watch with an array of sweet moves and elite shot creation abilities. His step-back threes are a thing of beauty. Boston also got a lot from everyone when they needed it, injured and all. The Wolves, on the other hand, could hit from deep (5-37) and lacked a certain intensity that encapsulated the winning basketball they have displayed under Finch. “Today wasn’t our day shooting the ball,” said Towns. “But that’s no excuse.”
“We weren’t locked in mentally,” said Chris Finch, to which Towns agreed. The early start times haven’t been kind to the Wolves this season but again, these are more excuses he says. “If you want to be playing when it matters most, you don’t control when the game is.”
Finch was extremely disappointed with the team in their performance. When asked if the momentum was dwindling going the offseason after heading in the right direction in recent weeks, he didn’t sugarcoat his dissatisfaction with losing 5 out of the last 7 games. “It’s been disappointing. I’m not going to lie. ...I would like to end the season on a high note.” He continued: “At the end of the day, we’re not a tanking team, so we wanted to end the season as well as possible.”
A couple of other quick thoughts...
D’Angelo went baseline and finished with a monster left-handed slam. Russell isn’t one to dunk. He almost never does. In fact, according to Basketball-Reference, that’s his first dunk in 53 games as a Wolf and only his 15th career slam through six seasons. It was an enjoyable moment within another dud. Here’s the image:
KAT had 24 and 14 but also struggled defensively and had two very poor passes, leading to easy transition buckets. All things considered, Towns is a talented distributor and can definitely pass well. Two bad passes aren’t the end of the world but where he often falls short in the dishing department is the constant gambling to toss the highlight reel pass. It’s something he can look to clean up this offseason—the best pass isn’t always the sexiest and as Towns develops as the leading man in Chris Finch’s offense, where he’s featured heavily on the elbows and in the post, he will need to cut out these sort of passes that compromise the transition defense. A small, but perhaps meaningful change to consider.
“We let one slide tonight,” said Towns, who wasn’t particularly happy with the sloppy execution in this matinee affair. “Everything is important for our development.”
Jake Layman posterized Tako Fall. He has a family, Jake! Take it easy on the big fella. Fall drew chants from a few drunken fans to enter the game, only to get slammed on. It’s the little things that matter!
Anthony Edwards had 24 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals. He couldn’t hit a three in this one (1-9) but the development he’s made this season has been a blast to watch and his future is bright as can be, whether he’s named the ROY or not. “You can give credit to Anthony Edwards with how he’s finished the season. He has what it takes to be great,” said Ricky Rubio.
And how far exactly are the Wolves away on the defensive end? “We made some strides,” said Rubio. “I think we got better but still have a long way to be the team we want to be.” Rubio reiterated the same thoughts as Towns and Finch, that this isn’t the way they wanted to end the season. Not with a bad showing like this. They’ll have one more chance tomorrow night.
“We can build something good here,” Rubio concluded. Indeed, that’s the dream.