Starting out with the negative, the Wolves clearly looked like an unorganized mess on offense despite great signs of growth during the preseason in the most crucial area of the BIG lineups. From the beginning of the game it felt as though every member of the starting five, minus Ant, was hesitant with everything they did on offense. For Anthony Edwards we all know he is not afraid to be aggressive and this game accentuated why that is both an amazing and sometimes detrimental quality of his game. Ant shot a whopping 8/27 from the field and was only efficient in that tremendous 1st quarter, his early success may have been part of the reason that for the rest of the game the offense was so iso-centric instead of the flow Finch desires. One positive to take away from Ant’s performance on offense was that he got to the FT line 6 times going 6/6, which is a jump from the 3.8 per game that had last season and if he can continue in that 6+ FT attempts range there is no reason he can not be close to 28+ ppg.
As for Karl-Anthony Towns, his decision making and poor shot making always seemed to stifle the Wolves offense from ever building a lead in the closely contested loss. There were definitely positives in KATs performance including a stellar defensive showing and looking like 2021/2021 KAT athletically but, his hesitancy on offense can be summarized in two possessions. The first being stuck in between throwing a lob to Rudy or shooting a floater when if he had just continued down the wide open lane he would have had as free of a bucket as there would be all game. The second and much more impactful mistake in contributing to the loss, Mike Conley hands the ball to KAT at the top of the key with 25 seconds left down 4. KAT decides with the game still in the balance he was going to force it into an all too familiar scene of Gobert calling for the ball attempting to post up All NBA defender O.G Anunoby and to all of our dismay it unsurprisingly ends in a turnover and another poor transition defensive effort. Albeit I am sure that Karl’s transcendent shooting ability will return and hopefully it does while he continues to shoot 10 3 pointers.
The 3x Defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert showed us what he is still capable of on both ends of the court being completely healthy. Rudy looked more spry and energetic than I can remember at any point of the season last year. He finished the game with a line of 15PTS 13REB 4BLK and 2STL, contributing on both ends of the court and a big reason why the Raptors were held to 97 points. The large concern with Rudy’s play is just the way he needs to be played around to make the team work, clogging driving lanes and making the spacing of the offense look like a mess. Now not all of that is Rudy’s fault a lot of it is a product of the roster but it is a clear issue for the team and was biggest issue of the year prior with the bigs lineup.
To credit the Raptors outside of the 1st quarter the refs allowed both teams to be fairly handsy/physical, which suits their attacking defense. Even though the turnover battle was tied at 14 a piece Toronto continued its transition dominance and brought to light the second biggest concern of the Wolves starting lineup getting back on defense. Toronto knew the game plan that teams including themselves used to beat the Wolves and it is simple just run. The Raptors won the transition points battle 35 to 12, meaning that the Wolves gave up the second most transition points in the NBA on opening day by 1 less point than the tumultous Wizards…
In the end you are not going to win a NBA regular season game having your best two offensive players shooting a combined 16/52 (30.7%), the team shooting 8/31 from 3 (25.8% yikes), and 34/100 (34%) from the field. The positive spin will be that there is no way that these numbers will continue to be this low and they better not be for Wolves fans’ mental health. Defensively the Wolves looked solid and that needs to continue while the offense attempts to find its footing. Next game is another tough challenge specifically for the BIG lineup of the Wolves playing the Heat this Saturday in the home opener. Hopefully the team offense will look much more like the Finch-ian flow that we saw in the preseason and lead to win #1.