Thoughts going into the Wolves’ first ever Christmas game

The Timberwolves season up until this point has been a disappointment. There has definitely been a good amount exciting moments and reasons to keep watching. But overall, it’s been a let down. The Wolves go into the first ever Christmas Day match up in franchise history 9-20. If you asked most of us that follow the Wolves like a car in traffic, we would’ve guessed nothing worse than 13-16. A good amount of people would’ve assumed something above .500.

The hype going into this season was bigger than when the Wolves acquired Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell to form the modern NBA’s original Big 3. Maybe ever. The Wolves have never played a game on Christmas in their 27-year history. This season was supposed to be different. Thibs was supposed to flawlessly teach the young pups everything and anything they need to know about defense for the rest of their careers. Towns was supposed to be an All Star.

Before the season, I had my reservations about the hype. I was mildly-bashed for these views, especially on Reddit. Understandably so, Wolves fans wanted to believe that the 12 years of suffering was over. We needed to make the playoffs and that is how we were going to define success. The hype has died down now though and many are having second thoughts.

I haven’t posted as much this season due to the fact that not much has changed throughout the season. The Wolves have improved a little over the last six games or so, but it hasn’t been drastic. They still make a lot of the mistakes that drive me crazy. They struggle with helping each other on defense, especially on the interior. They think that when they are double-teamed, they should try to shoot the ball as quickly as possible instead of finding the open man. They fall into an individualistic form of basketball that can never equate to wins in the NBA.

I also have been disappointed in Wiggins and Towns a bit. Wiggins seems disengaged if he isn’t involved in the offense early and often. He will be a next-level player if he learned to impact the game without the ball. Towns gets caught up in his own hype very often and is the greatest offender of the ‘not passing out of a double team’ violation I eluded to earlier. His interior defense this season has also been embarrassing. His man often beats him in the post or off the dribble and he also is incapable of stopping penetration as a help defender.

On the bench, the entire squad has either been a let down or just meh. Shabazz and Bjelica were handed the keys to be the primary scorers off the bench and they just haven’t been able to do it on a consistent basis. Cole Aldrich has been decent in his time on the floor. Kris Dunn’s offense has also took a turn for the better. Brandon Rush has more snapchat posts than minutes per game. I forgot we signed Jordan Hill. I wish we could see more of Tyus Jones. What I have learned from this 9-20 start is that the Wolves need a starting-caliber bench player. I think eventually, this person is Gorgui Dieng. A free agent would be helpful here though.

All of that said, there is a lot I am excited about this season, especially at this point of the season. Yes, we have more than twice as many losses as wins this season. But we are playing on Christmas! The Wolves are in probably the biggest team spotlight of the season that is not the playoffs. So what am I happy about at this point?

Special edition jerseys and shoes for Christmas. As I wrap up my MBA and I have a fresh passion still for marketing, nothing makes me more excited than the special edition jerseys the Wolves are going to wear and all of the limited-edition shoes. Christmas is a sneakerhead’s favorite time of the year. Karl-Anthony Towns showcased his Christmas PE’s below. I am looking forward to what Andrew Wiggins’ PE’s will look like and what shoes Zach LaVine will wear. I hope Zach keeps it simple and rocks some Space Jams.


Zach LaVine can score points and create offense better than maybe anyone on the team. Bold statement, I know. LaVine has been the biggest surprise this season. His ability to score has been crazy. He can score from anywhere on the court. He can score off the dribble or coming off the screen. He is amazing in transition. He is the go-to-scorer in late shot clock situations. He plays great as the primary scorer with the bench unit. His time as the backup PG has helped him be a decent playmaker. His defense has also improved pretty dramatically. I have been so impressed with Zach. He was the biggest question mark coming into the season. Could he actually be a consistent 3rd option and fit in as a starter? He has proven he can be. Zach’s emergence has kept me optimistic about the future. I would not be opposed to experimenting with him coming off the bench as the 6th man later in the season, but not sure if he would welcome that approach.

Kris Dunn’s defense is awesome. Kris Dunn is incredibly fun to watch, especially on defense. There is always a place on a team for a guard who can play defense. Dunn has the potential to be a lockdown defense like Patrick Beverly. You can never have enough of those guys. I know his offense has been suspect, but it will take time to develop. Regardless, he is already the best perimeter defender on the team.

The big three is only 21 years old. There is a lot of time left. I hope they develop better chemistry on the floor but there is still room to develop that. Towns, Wiggins and LaVine all average over 20 points per game through 30 games and they are only 21 years old. That means they have a ton of talent and they are in desperate need of support. The Wolves will have more opportunities to add a better supporting cast. In the mean time, I never thought I would say this, but we should really ‘trust the process’.

Regardless of the outcome, Wolves fans should really attempt to take in this storm of a season against the Thunder tonight. There is a lot to be disappointed in this season but also much reason to be optimistic. Enjoy the jerseys. Enjoy the shoes. Enjoy the Russell Westbrook triple-double. Enjoy it all!

The Timber Rebuilder.  #Powerofthepack

 

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Oh What a Series!

While not Timberwolves related – the Western Conference finals was epic. There is a slew of information and analysis on it so will not bore you with that, but just wanted to walk through how crazy of a series this was between the Thunder and Warriors.

It is no secret I was personally cheering for the Thunder. The Thunder have been a favorite for a while. I have always appreciated Kevin Durant and his humbleness. I even had the chance to meet him and sit down and chat with him. He was the most down-to-earth athlete I ever met. Russell Westbrook is a freak and a joy to watch. Serge Ibaka is a guy I would love to play for the Wolves, especially if we can trade the 5th pick for him (dreaming). Randy Foye was one of my all-time favorite Timberwolves. I always felt Steven Adams would be an amazing center in the league. Heck, I was one of the few that had hope Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones would become great NBA players. So I’ve been following for a while.

The Warriors have always been a team that you have to watch. They are history in the making. As an avid basketball fan, they are impossible to ignore, even hate. But what I dislike is how much they brag. They is no need to showoff after every made bucket, unless you’re Mo Speights hitting a three in Game 7 in the Western Conference finals. What I do respect is how they’ve played with all the pressure on them. They have played the second half of the season as their biggest opponent. They even dropped a game to the Timberwolves as home.  To see how they’ve reacted to the pressure of winning 73 games and having the first unanimous MVP has been so fun to watch. Nothing but appreciation for this team.

Jumping to the series, it was like a classic fictional tale about what the NBA could be. Or a Hollywood film directed by Michael Bay. This series was literally a roller coaster. Quick summaries below. Home team is the second team listed each time.

Game 1: Thunder 108, Warriors 102

The Thunder steal game 1! The Warriors lose a game at home, many believed because they finally faced a worthy opponent. It should’ve been the wake up call the Warriors needed. The Thunder were still not a serious threat. But Russell Westbrook and Durant played amazingly. Westbrook racked up 7 steals along with 27 points and 12 assists. KD added 26 points himself with 10 boards. Curry shot terribly with 9/22 from the field for 26 points. That won’t happen every game.

Game 2: Thunder 91, Warriors 118

This is what we expected for most of the series. Stephen Curry with a casual 28 points on 15 shots. How anyone does that is news to me. Not the closest of games so a fairly spread box score. Series is tied 1-1. The Warriors woke up finally. This should go 6 for the Warriors right?

Game 3: Warriors 105, Thunder 133

In Oklahoma where the Thunder dominate. It wasn’t close. The Thunder dominated in the second quarter and it was both offensively and defensively. The Thunder were never very adequate defensively but somehow they emerged with the Mega-death lineup that had Ibaka at the 5 and Durant at the 4. Durant was a defensive juggernaut using his length to slow down the Warriors’ guards. He had 33 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Russell Westbrook added 30 himself with 12 assists. The Warriors got nothing outside of Thompson and Curry. Even then, the splash brothers combined for 5 total threes. Not their best game. Somehow the Thunder are up 2-1. The next game is pivotal.

Game 4: Warriors 94, Thunder 118

Where the drama begins. The Thunder just have an amazing team effort. Roberson scored a career-high 17 points with 12 rebounds and 5 steals. Ibaka had 17 points as well. To add insult to injury, Westbrook chimed in with a casual triple-double with 36 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. The Thunder’s team defense began to look like one of the best in the league. It was a complete team effort for the Thunder that game them a comfortable lead in the series of 3-1. The Warriors for the first time in two years would face elimination in the playoffs. It seemed that the show was over.

Game 5: Thunder 111, Warriors 120

‘We ain’t going home’ from Steph Curry. The Warriors facing elimination at home. If there was a game that the Warriors should win it was this one. It was close but the Thunder were never able to catch up. The Warriors withstood 40 points from Durant and 31 from Westbrook. The Thunder went for the kill to not avail. Steph had 31 and Thompson added 27. The difference was the rest of the Warriors who came to play. The series would be 3-2 and go back to OKC.

Game 6: Warriors 108, Thunder 101

This was a game! The Thunder were up a good amount of the game. It came down to the last two minutes where the Warriors just took the lead and snuck out. It almost felt certain that the Thunder had this one in the bag. But Klay Thompson set an NBA Playoffs single-game record for threes made with 11. He had a huge 41 points ahead of Curry’s 31. This game was the turning point. With the series at 3-3, Game 7 would be one for the ages.

Game 7: Thunder 88, Warriors 96

A historic game 7. The Warriors became the 10th team to come back from being down 1-3 in the playoffs, which seemed like a cherry on top for what they’ve accomplished this season. The Thunder played a great 1st half holding the Warriors to their 2nd lowest point total of the season. But the second half the unanimous MVP stepped up and stole the show The Thunder didn’t have an answer for him. While the Thunder came back to within 4 points in the final quarter, they just seemed to give up. Roberson gave up a wide open three pointer and then they seemed to quick in the final minute of the game. It was incredible to see Curry score his 36 points in a multitude of ways. The Warriors are headed to the finals to defend their championship.

At some point this summer when baseball is all that is happening, there is a good chance I rewatching this entire series back-to-back. It was that good. The Warriors earned their stripes. And now all the speculation begins around where Kevin Durant may land this summer…

 

The Thunder probably did the Warriors a favor. They woke the giant that the Warriors were went they went on their historic run earlier in the season. The Warriors were coasting late in the season chasing the 72-win record, which I repeatedly said would be a huge mistake. That mistake may’ve costed them the season had they lost in game 5, 6, or 7. But somehow they held on and added to an even more dramatic and historic run.

The finals will be a lot of fun to watch. A healthy Cavs team with a hungry Lebron James get a second shot at a title against the Warriors. LBJ has been quietly making history by going to the finals 6 straight seasons. It will be interesting to see how Kevin Love matches up in this series. Not because he is the man we love to hate in Minnesota but because he will be the easiest of the big three to eliminate from being relevant on the floor due to his defensive woes.

See you all in the finals!