November 12, 2017, 12:41 am
A loss to the Warriors is understandable. A loss to the Suns, especially with Phoenix coming off a back-to-back, is tough to swallow. The Wolves didn’t play particularly well at any point in this game and they let the Suns hang around until finally the Wolves collapsed.
With 4:46 left in the fourth quarter, Jeff Teague nailed a step back three off of a pick-and-roll switch over Tyson Chandler to give the Wolves a 103-97 lead and Phoenix called a timeout. Over the next four minutes, the Suns went on a 14-0 run, culminating with a Marquese Chriss 3-pointer with 51 seconds left.
In the end the teams traded points to close the game and the Suns won 118-110.
The game plan against the Suns is generally centered around slowing down Devin Booker and T.J. Warren. The Wolves failed miserably in that regard with each player going for 35 points on a combined 28-of-44 shooting.
Booker had a monster line chipping in nine rebounds, six assists and a steal with five 3-pointers. He pretty much got to any place on the floor with minimal resistance and was nailing his shots in rhythm.
Warren added six rebounds, one steal and one block. He was leaking out on a number of possessions and beat the defense down the floor for easy layups. On nearly every rebound or inbounds play, the Suns were looking ahead to make the quick outlet pass and were able to get away with it too often throughout the game.
This is how the Suns rely on generating offense and the Wolves continuously let it happen which kept them from pulling away. When the Wolves stopped making shots late, it got out of hand to a point where Phoenix just ran all over them.
Karl-Anthony Towns did not have a very good game despite the double-double. He scored 17 points, pulled down 12 rebounds and added two assists, two blocks and a steal. He shot only 8-of-19, including 1-of-5 on 3-pointers. The long distance shots were particularly maddening as they were mostly early in the shot-clock.
Defensively he really struggled again though. He continuously left his feet on help-defense situations for no reason, a persistent problem of his. Or he would be late rotating on a screen, and in general his pick-and-roll defense left a lot to be desired.
Jeff Teague scored eight points on 3-of-10 shooting and had more turnovers than assists (six to five, respectively). Teague was a minus-23 while on the court. Towns had a minus-27. The next lowest starter was Jimmy Butler at minus-9. Not ideal for the Wolves.
Butler was more aggressive on offense tonight but it felt forced. While the idea of getting Butler going on offense is nice, the worry is he would end up forcing the issue by taking bad shots. Unfortunately that was the case tonight. He made only 5-of-17 field goals and just dribbled the life out of the ball at times.
Offense generally hasn’t been a problem for this team, so it was odd that Butler decided now that something had to change. He finished with 25 points thanks to getting to the free-throw line, finishing 14-of-16.
Wiggins played fairly well with 27 points though didn’t add much value elsewhere. He was one of the more active players on both sides of the court tonight in terms of effort though.
Gibson finished with another double-double, scoring 16 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
In the end it’s still only November. There are chronic issues that need to be addressed and are likely in the process of getting fixed. This is still a young team coming off a 31-win season. The turnaround wasn’t going to happen overnight and it hasn’t happened yet despite the 7-3 start.
Much like the first win over Oklahoma City, expectations perhaps got a little bit out of hand after the five-game win streak. This is a roster that is still oddly constructed and searching for the right rotations. The players are still building rapport together and the coaches clearly haven’t quite gotten their concepts across yet.
The good news is there is plenty of time, even beyond this season. This isn’t a championship or bust team, this is a squad building for long-term success. Caring too much about a forgettable loss in November is what builds toxic environments.
Sure the goal is to win every game, but at this juncture the team can afford teachable moments in bad losses. The little details that need to get across tend to get swept under the rug when things are going well. Humbling games like this can be when teams are able to extract the most out of film studies and review.
The team will have a lot of think about before they take on the Jazz in Utah on Monday.