The Wolves opened the season against the Lakers with heavy hearts still from Sunday’s news. The Wolves wore ‘WE’ shirts that said ‘Flip’ on them as well, that the Timberwolves should absolutely sell to the public and donate a portion of the profits to Cancer Research. Yup, quick tangent.
Anyways, the Wolves were down by 16 in the second half and were brought back into the game by the same bench that put them into that deficit. The Wolves were led by Ricky Rubio’s career-high 28 points and 14 assists. Karl-Anthony Towns added 14 points and 12 assists in his NBA debut. Many Wolves were emotional after the game and dedicated the game to the late Flip Saunders.
I got to watch the game, so my thoughts below.
Ricky Rubio. Ricky hit a few early 3-pointers that the Lakers were giving him because of his reputation. Rubio also showed that he can finish around the rim by being aggressive and finishing with contact. Ricky put the team on his back, scoring 28 and then distributing out 14 dimes. It was the kind of game we have been dreaming about for years. The Wolves can’t expect Rubio to score this much every game, but if teams can respect his ability to get the ball in the basket, it will open up the floor for the rest of the guys. Defensively, Ricky as usual looked good. As Amin Elhassan pointed out, all he needed was a fade.
Karl Towns. He played fairly mistake-free basketball. A double-double is always a great thing to get out of your starting big man. He was the most consistent of the bigs rotation. He will start getting some offense run through him. His three point attempt looked forced, but once that gets going, sky is the limit. i loved that he didn’t look passive out there. He made the adjustments necessary defensively down the stretch and stayed out of foul trouble. 14 points and 12 rebounds, way to go rook!
Kevin Martin. While I am not the biggest endorser for K-Mart, he provided a much needed lift of the bench. He played like a savvy veteran. He did what the Wolves needed him to do, that was to score. He got to the line a ton and the best was where he forced himself to three free throws by staying aware of a dumb fould coming his way. I worried a lot having a LaVine-Martin backcourt for the simple fact that defensively, the Wolves aredisastrous. But the Wolves adjusted and for the first time in his career, Kevin Martin was applying a full court press that sent a message to the rest of the team. If K-Mart is trying defensively, everyone should.
LaVine, Shabazz, Bjelica off the bench in second half. In the first half, Bazz couldn’t get going, LaVine looked like he never played point guard before, and Bjelica picked up 3 fouls in first quarter. These three played a crucial role though in the second half. The Wolves made a run back into the game with the support of hustle and scoring by Shabazz, decent play by LaVine, and some versatile play from Bjelica. They didn’t fill up the stat sheet but each had a couple plays that changed the momentum. If they can figure out their roles and hustle as much as they did in the second half, they can be very reliable pieces for the Wolves.
Defense. Man the Wolves still suck defensively. It felt like a video game in the second quarter where just because the Lakers were playing the Wolves, its like everyone got better and couldn’t miss. Lou Williams dominated. Kobe couldn’t miss. We all knew the buzzer beater was coming from Swaggy P. The issue was players didn’t rotate and didn’t contest any shots. The Lakers got every shot they wanted. If KG still had hair last night, he would’ve lost it all watching that defense. This needs to be addressed quickly. We can’t win games letting opponents score 112 points.
The Rotation. Please Sam Mitchell, we don’t need to go Platoon to make KAT feel comfortable. The Wolves brought in their entire bench in the first quarter and everything collapsed. Pairing is going to be important. Bjelica couldn’t guard Randle or Hibbert. LaVine and Martin is the worst defensive backcourt combination in the NBA. Staggering guys in and out is essential. Wiggins and Martin are not good pairs. Wiggins needs to find a scoring rhythm early in the game before K-Mart enters. Its early in the season, its time to experiment with which combinations and substitutions work and which don’t.
Andrew Wiggins. Unfortunately, Wiggins has the highest expectations on the team. And I often believe its not that he can’t meet them, its almost like he doesn’t want to meet them. My biggest issue is his passiveness, and I believe many agree. An adjustment for Friday’s game is to look to get Wiggins involved. Whether it be off ball screens or posting up. What he has to do is become more aggressive. Take a note out of K-Mart’s book. Get to the line and get going. All I could imagine was Wiggins in a Waldo outfit. Creepy, but where was he?
The black long sleeve jerseys. My hope is if I complain about these enough, they will disappear. They were cool when they first came out, but I can’t stand them anymore. Jersey redesign needed ASAP.
The Road Ahead
The Wolves take on the Denver Nuggets on Friday where they get to see rookie Emmanual Mudiay, who was relatively impressive in his NBA debut, although he turned the ball over 11 times. The Nuggets won their season opener in an upset over the Rockets. The Wolves will also get to see a deep and young front court of the Nuggets which has a guy from basically every European country in Gallinari, Nurkic (out until November), Lauvergne, and Jokic. Also, former Timberwolves Randy Foye and Mike Miller play for the Nuggets.