clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Suns 129, Wolves 117: Booker, Bridges Show Wolves Just How Far Away They Are

Phoenix played like a championship-caliber team on Wednesday night, leaving the Wolves confused and hapless

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Minnesota Timberwolves Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

To put it bluntly, the Minnesota Timberwolves just aren’t a good basketball team right now, and it was remarkably apparent tonight as they took on a team with hopes of winning a championship. The Wolves showed some fight in the fourth quarter, but after a fine start, they were mostly lackadaisical and unwilling to fight throughout the majority of the game. Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges punched first, and the Wolves only began to punch back once it was far too late.

To their credit, Booker and Bridges are fantastic basketball players. Book finished with 32 points and 10 assists, and Bridges posted 31 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals. They absolutely destroyed the Wolves, and in doing so, showed them exactly why they are so far away from being a contender right now.

In particular, Mikal Bridges showed Minnesota exactly what a winning basketball player looks like. Bridges doesn’t jog into cuts on offense, or even run, he sprints into every action, and does so only after taking a half-step or lean in the opposite direction to get his defender off balance. Bridges doesn’t take four pointless dribbles to nowhere every time he catches the ball. He catches and makes a quick decision to dribble, pass, or shoot, never letting the defense make their rotation and reset. If he has a good shot, he still won’t hesitate to find his teammate who’s open for a great shot.

He never gives up on a play defensively, works his ass of to avoid being screened, and sprints back into the play on the rare occasion he is screened. He sees his teammate get beat, and doesn’t shrug his shoulders or start thinking about going to score on the other end, instead he makes the extra effort to sprint across the floor and help his teammate. That is what a winning basketball player does. It’s what Mikal Bridges does. The Suns have several players who make those types of efforts. It’s why they are so dominant, but Bridges sticks out even among his other teammates playing remarkably good team basketball.

The little things all add up, and the Timberwolves don’t do any of them.

While the Suns ran their offense with a crisp purpose, the Wolves played in the mud most of the game. While the Suns sprinted to rebounds and dove for loose balls, the Wolves jogged. While the Suns knew their personnel and executed their defensive coverages, the Wolves hardly knew whether they were playing man-to-man or zone defense. While the Suns are one cohesive five-man unit, the Wolves can hardly remember that they need five players on the floor at all.

At the end of the day, this was a night that, fake late push aside, made so clear all of the little things that this team just does not do that contribute to winning beyond individual offensive brilliance.

This was still only game 12, so it’s not as if the season is over at 5-7. It is a problem, though, that boo birds are becoming more common at Target Center than an extra effort play. This team gives up so many straight line drives yet only has one player on the roster willing to slide in and even attempt to take a charge (Taurean Prince). When things go poorly, they lack someone to collect the group and instill that mental toughness into them to stop a 6-0 run at 6. Instead, this team thus far has routinely lost their composure and let it snowball, like it did in the second quarter tonight.

Amidst all the bad, and there was a lot of it, there were a couple good performances. Never go to bed angry, or something like that, so let’s acknowledge the few guys who played well.

First, Jaden McDaniels had one of his better games of the season, finishing with 24 points on 14 shots, as well as 8 rebounds. He wasn’t at his absolute best defensively, which is part of why Book and Bridges had such big nights, but it takes great team defense to stop a team like this. Aside from him, Rudy Gobert had a pretty good night in his return to action. Rudy totaled 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Lastly, Jaylen Nowell was pretty much the only thing that kept the Wolves offense afloat in the first half. He finished with 14 points on 8 field goal attempts.

Still, though, that’s slim pickings. This team has a long ways to go before they look like the team many of us envisioned before the season started. There’s a lot of season left, but this team needs to start showing progress, and fast.

Next up, a big test in Memphis on Friday night. Can this team respond? If so, who leads them? That’s what they need to figure out, more than anything.