November 18, 2017, 12:10 am
It was a tale of two halves.
Minnesota opened the game flat. They weren’t able to score easily, shooting under 40 percent in the first half. Their defense on the Mavs was bad, allowing the Mavs to score easily in the paint and from beyond the arc. At one point, the Wolves were down as much as 14 points. At halftime the deficit was 12.
Then Minnesota opened the third quarter on a 26-8 run and were able to get right back into the game, leading by two points after the third. They weren’t satisfied after that. Minnesota opened the fourth quarter on a 26-8 run as well and ended up running away with the game.
They outscored the Mavs 68-32 in the second half and won 111-87. It ended up being Minnesota’s biggest comeback of the season. The 10-5 start is their teams’ best start since 2004.
All 12 players who entered scored. Jimmy Butler was the leading scorer during the balanced Wolves’ attack with 21 points on 8-of-19 shooting. He made 3-of-5 3-pointers, and both of his free-throws. In addition to the points he had eight rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Teague, Towns and Gibson all posted double-doubles on the evening. Teague finished with 15 points and 10 assists, with three 3-pointers and four rebounds. Defensively he was a liability most of the time again, but he’s really found his role offensively.
Teague has been valuable enough to keep around, but it’s something to think about down the line as a position that the Wolves can upgrade, if his offense begins to decline. In the meantime he is fine.
Towns finished with a modest 15 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, one steal and one 3-pointer. He had a quiet game on both sides, which can be a good thing. A quiet game on defense meant that he didn’t make many glaring mistakes and played in control. Baby steps for him.
Gibson posted his usual 10 points and 11 rebounds. He only took eight shots tonight, including the three times he was fouled shooting. He was terrific for the defense once again, especially on help screens and switches. The Wolves switched a couple of times with Barnes, leaving Gibson guarding a perimeter player, but he held his own.
Wiggins scored 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting with five rebounds, one assist and three steals.
Off the bench, Crawford scored 12 points on only six shots. That’s about the happy medium for him. You don’t want him taking many more shots than that. Bjelica chipped in across the board with seven points, three rebounds, one assist and one 3-pointer. He has been the best player off the bench for Minnesota.
— CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) November 18, 2017
Thibs has to find a way to get “Threelica” minutes. It’s possible those minutes will come at the small-forward position. “Bazz” Muhammed scored only one point and was the only player with a negative plus/minus on the night. He just isn’t an effective option if he’s not scoring the ball, which he’s not doing this season.
On defense “Bazz” is not stopping anybody, so inserting Bejlica into that position won’t lose any defense. If Thibs shortens his rotation down to nine players, it would give him an opportunity to get creative with his rotations and cover up some of the deficiencies.
Bringing Crawford and Dieng off the bench early in the first and third quarters for Towns and Butler, and opening the second and fouth quarters with Jones, Butler, Bjleica, Dieng and Towns would make for a much more balanced look than what they’re currently running out there.
It would allow Butler and Towns to get a few more shot opportunities with the second unit, and open the floor for Wiggins when those two are off the floor. Spacing would never be a glaring issue either.
It also spreads out the key defenders throughout the game so at most times the Wolves would have at least two of their best defenders on the floor.
With Bazz not showing any reason to justify minutes for him, it’s possible this happens sooner rather than later. Looking ahead the Wolves have a fairly soft schedule with a number of home games. It could be a prime time to start exploring some modifications.
The Wolves next take on the Pistons back home on Sunday. It’ll be another early-season rematch, and the last time the Wolves face the Pistons.