October 20, 2017, 9:15 pm
The Timberwolves went back and forth with the Jazz all game, but ultimately came out on top 100-97 thanks to a late 3-pointer by Jamal Crawford.
With 28 seconds left in the game and the Jazz up 96-95, Tom Thibodeau drew up a play to get Crawford open for a three in the corner. After a nice screen by Karl-Anthony Towns, Crawford was able to get just enough space to bury it.
The way he was shooting in the fourth quarter though, he may not have needed any space. Crawford finished the game with 17 points and three 3-pointers off the bench, all coming in the fourth.
The Wolves brought him in to be a gunner and he did just that tonight. He also had a nice assist to Towns that led to a dunk.
Towns had an efficient 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting, with 10 rebounds, one assist, one steal, two blocks and one turnover. He didn’t seem bothered by Rudy Gobert on the offensive side, but he did give up a few offensive rebounds on the other end. He has had some issues there these first two games.
Andrew Wiggins scored 21 points tonight to lead all scorers, but it felt like a step backwards from his last game. His shot was not falling consistently, going 7-of-19 (2-of-6 from 3-point range), and he was burned on defense more than once.
Late in the game, Wiggins rotated to Rubio on the perimeter, leaving Joe Ingles wide open for a 3-pointer. Thibs called a timeout and was not happy in the heat of the moment. This was also after a lost offensive possession where Wiggins dribbled the life out of the ball, and eventually off his own foot, with Derrick Favors guarding him leading to a turnover.
Jimmy Butler was mostly quiet on offense again, scoring 13 points, but he did take 14 shots, mostly from isolation. He’ll get going soon enough.
On defense tonight he was his usual, dominant self. He generated numerous deflections, finishing with five steals. He also came down with the key defensive rebound that basically sealed the game with 5.2 seconds remaining, up 98-96.
Butler was also vocally active, getting into a little bit of a scrum with Ricky Rubio and standing up for his teammates.
Rubio mostly dominated the point guard matchup and tried his best to make Minnesota fans nervous. Finishing with 19 points, 11 assists, five rebounds, two steals, he outplayed Jeff Teague who finished with 10 points, four assists, two rebounds, and two steals. Rubio did miss two layups, which fans know all too much about.
Nemanja Bjelica came in and was probably the second-best big man after Towns tonight. He played only 13 minutes again, but was extremely productive with 10 points (4-of-5 shooting), two 3-pointers (2-of-2), and five rebounds. He was also very active on defense and moved the ball on offense. He’s potentially looking at more playing time.
Overall, there were a number of positives from this game. There were times where the defense was able to get consistent stops, and that is going to be key moving forward for this team. While we can’t expect guys like Towns and Wiggins to become lock down defenders already, it’s pleasant to see them wipe away the defensive lapses more often than not.
Offensively there were still some times where guys looked lost, especially early in the first half. They really simplified things at one point and just kept feeding Towns, Butler or Gibson in the post, with mixed results. There was little action on the back side, so no one to kick out to.
Late in the third quarter, and in the fourth, Bjelica and Crawford gave the offense some life and ended up winning the game for the Wolves.
At this point it appears the defense is ahead of the offense, which isn’t a bad thing at all considering the talented scorers on the roster. You know at some point they will figure it out.
Looking ahead, the Wolves visit the Oklahoma City Thunder this Sunday. The Thunder blew out the Knicks 105-84 on Thursday in their season opener. They will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back.