April 19, 2018, 1:40 am
If there was one thing the Wolves drastically improved from Game 1 to Game 2, it was shutting down the two players who did the most damage against them.
James Harden went for 12 points on 2-of-18 shooting, while Clint Capela scored just eight points. Surely after the Wolves nearly beat the Rockets on Sunday with Harden and Capela combining for 68 points the Wolves would be in fantastic shape this time out, right?
Not quite. On a night where Harden and Capela struggled to score and the Wolves hold the Rockets to just 36.5 percent shooting, Houston still managed to blow out the Wolves 102-82.
It was frankly a disappointing performance from everyone involved. Karl-Anthony Towns scored five points and now has just 13 in two games. Jimmy Butler is clearly playing through a lot of pain in his right wrist. Jeff Teague struggled with foul trouble in the first half and hardly played in the second when the game got out of reach.
Andrew Wiggins was the lone bright spot with 13 points, eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block. When that’s the best line of the starting unit, it’s obvious the team had a long night.
The Wolves’ offense was completely shut down, and coming off a game where the coach and players seemed to be on a different page this was certainly a harrowing sign. In between Game 1 and Game 2, Tom Thibodeau and Teague had opposing views on how the offense was executed in the first game.
It’s never a good sign when a player, especially a starting point guard, is preaching a different approach than the head coach. It’s not a good sign in the offseason, the regular season and certainly not the postseason. Who knows if they reached common ground in practice, but after an offensive effort like this, it’s not going to instill much confidence.
The Wolves had a pretty nice start to the game, at least for the first few minutes. The team was executing their plays like they were practicing. The writing was on the wall, though. The team shot 39.1 percent from the field in the first quarter, which turned out to be an indicator of what was to come.
The rotations got jumbled slightly and the effect was a discombobulated affair. Thibs, known for his stubbornness, rolled with the small ball lineup for far too long (Jamal Crawford, Derrick Rose, Jeff Teague and Jimmy Butler). Throughout the season a bad lineup would throw the Wolves out of sync for extended stretches where even the starters had trouble getting back into the right tempo.
For the entire night the Wolves shot 38.8 percent and looked disconnected from any sort of offensive rhythm. The Wolves scored just 35 points in the second and third quarters combined, and by the time the fourth rolled around, Thibs waived the white flag by starting five bench players and letting them loose the rest of the way.
Extracting positives out of this game is tough, but there can at least be some credit for the defense. Houston is now shooting just 41.3 percent from the field through two games, including just 29.2 percent from 3-point range. So far it’s been about the only thing the Wolves have done right this series.
Down 2-0 the Wolves head home to host their first playoff game since 2004. If the team can bring the same intensity on the defensive end and settle in on their home floor on the offensive end, perhaps the Wolves can get a win.
The Rockets have certainly looked beatable in these first two games, but the Wolves’ offensive execution has just been lacking more than at any point this season. Right now no one is safe from the blame. Everyone, from Thibs to the players, needs to be better.
December 14, 2019, 10:03 amRajon RondoPG, Los Angeles Lakers
Rajon Rondo (left hamstring strain) returned to action on Friday after a two-game absence with no points, two rebounds, four assists and one steal in 24 minutes.
Rondo missed all five field goal attempts and should see better days. His playing time and game availability should remain inconsistent all year but outside of all that, he is putting up top-150 standard league per-game value with 7.9 points, 5.7 assists, 1.4 triples and 1.0 steals so he can provide some value if you need a spot start or some assists in your lineup.
December 14, 2019, 9:56 amGoga BitadzeC, Indiana Pacers
The Pacers assigned Goga Bitadze and Alize Johnson to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants on Saturday.
They will be in uniform and eligible to play. This is Bitadze's first stint with the G League squad, reminding all of us of just how accelerated his development has been as a "raw" rookie this season. Goga had a nice string of four-block games earlier this season, but he and Johnson are well off the fantasy radar with the Pacers nearing full health.
Source: Scott Agness on Twitter
December 14, 2019, 9:51 amKeita Bates-DiopSF, Minnesota Timberwolves
Keita Bates-Diop (illness) played 11 minutes and compiled no stats on Friday after missing one game.
Diop missed his only shot on the night as he may have had some lingering illness effects. The 2018 second round pick is averaging 7.2 points and 1.3 triples in 18.5 minutes with a 51.5 field goal percentage on the season so he should see better days ahead is off the standard league radar.
December 14, 2019, 9:46 amMalik MonkSG, Charlotte Hornets
Malik Monk (right finger discomfort) played nine minutes in his return to action after a one-game absence.
This was season-low for Monk who is averaging 20.0 minutes on the season. With Nicholas Batum out, Terry Rozier, Davonte Graham and P.J. Washington all played heavy minutes. Cody Martin played 15 minutes off the bench and may have jumped Monk in the rotation for now.
December 14, 2019, 1:48 amTerance MannPG, Los Angeles Clippers
Terrence Mann replaced the injured Patrick Beverley in the starting lineup on Friday and added three assists, two rebounds and a block.
There was a decent opportunity for some sneaky DFS value here but Mann fell flat on his face. Don't consider Mann a fantasy option, especially when Beverley returns.
December 14, 2019, 12:55 amKawhi LeonardSF, Los Angeles Clippers
Kawhi Leonard accumulated 42 points (10-for-24 shooting, 19-for-19 free throws), 11 rebounds, three triples and two assists as the Clippers defeated the Wolves 124-117.
Leonard was relentlessly attacking the defense in this one and was rewarded with 19 free throw attempts which ties his career-high. It's odd to see a Leonard line with no defensive counters, but that's nitpicking what was an amazing line. The only thing holding Leonard back is load management.
December 14, 2019, 12:51 amPaul GeorgeSF, Los Angeles Clippers
Paul George caught fire on Friday, finishing with 46 points (17-for-31 shooting), seven assists, six threes, five rebounds and two steals.
Nobody could stop George or Kawhi Leonard in this one, as the two both scored over 40 points for the first time this season. Something tells me this won't be the last time. The Clippers are starting to hit their stride, despite missing several contributors to injury. Look out.
December 14, 2019, 12:50 amMontrezl HarrellPF, Los Angeles Clippers
Montrezl Harrell did what he does on Friday, chipping in 18 points (7-for-13 shooting) and four rebounds in 32 minutes off the bench.
Harrell is a leading candidate for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award because he comes off the bench and gets buckets. He did that again tonight, though with fewer rebounds than normal.
December 14, 2019, 12:48 amRodney McGruderSG, Los Angeles Clippers
Rodney McGruder returned to the floor in Friday's victory over the Wolves, finishing with three rebounds.
It wasn't one to write home about for McGruder, but just getting back on the floor after a hamstring injury kept him out a few weeks is a good sign. The Clippers are dealing with a lot of injuries right now, so if he can get back up to speed quickly there could be some extra minutes for him.
December 14, 2019, 12:46 amJulius RandlePF, New York Knicks
Julius Randle finished Friday's 103-101 victory over the Kings with 26 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three triples.
It is starting to feel like Randle isn't even trying to record defensive numbers these days. You take the good scoring and rebounding numbers, but his upside remains capped as long as he puts up zeroes on the defensive side.