November 29, 2017, 11:21 pm
The Wolves had no business being in this game. Playing on a back-to-back after losing at home with a seven-player rotation, going up against a talented, physical team that hasn’t played in two days, it seemed like a game to chalk up as a loss and no one would be that disappointed.
Naturally the Wolves go on to dominate the Pelicans with the same seven (ish) player rotation from last night.
Minnesota did get a little bit of help. About midway through the second quarter, star big-man Anthony Davis was having just about enough of the referees. After a non-call on one end, Davis got into the ref while jogging back on defense and was assessed a technical foul. Davis needed to be restrained by DeMarcus Cousins and calmed down a bit.
After the foul shot, the Wolves went inside to Towns, who drew a foul assessed to Davis. In that moment, AD decided he wanted to spend the rest of the game watching from his television of choice. He got into it with the refs, begging for another technical and they obliged.
It was a 46-43 game at that moment, 4:11 into the second quarter. Over the next 1:50 the Wolves went on an 11-0 run and took control of the game. After that the lead never dwindled to less than eight points, and it rose to as many as 20.
It was clearly the turning point of the game, and who knows how it would have ended up without Davis’ first career ejection, but the Wolves could care less. They’ll take the win and head on out to Oklahoma City.
There were a number of valiant efforts tonight for the Wolves. Gorgui Dieng perhaps deserves the spotlight tonight after busting out for 19 points, six rebounds, five assists, four steals and a 3-pointer. He shot 8-of-13 from the floor and 2-of-2 from the line.
Among the four steals he officially was credited for, he deflected a number of passes and was very active on defense. Gorgui looked like his old, productive self. It’s been a tough season so far adjusting to his minutes getting cut.
Perhaps a game like this will get his head right, and even though he’s not playing 37 minutes every game it may carry over to his future games. There’s no reason him and Bjelica can’t make some noise together once he’s healthy.
Gorgui saw a lot of action tonight, and Towns was the main fall guy as a result. Towns only played 21 minutes. He played a great first half, reaching a double-double before the break, but foul trouble bit him afterwards. Dieng’s terrific play and the score gave Thibs an excuse to keep KAT grounded.
On the game, Towns finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. He did commit six turnovers though, but the way he was looking to move the ball from the high post was intriguing. A Wolves’ offense than can run through Towns opens up a ton of possibilities.
Thibs mentioned post game that he “like the way Towns moved the ball from side-to-side”, so perhaps this is something we see more going forward.
Wiggins played a tremendous game himself, perhaps one of his best. He scored 28 points, pulled down eight rebounds, dished five assists, got one block and nailed three 3-pointers. He shot 10-of-18 from the field and 5-of-5 from the line (finally). His defense has continued to look fantastic as well.
On the season Wiggins has a defensive rating of 105.2, an improvement from last years’ 110.4. To drive the point home further, when Wiggins is off the floor the Wolves’ defensive rating falls all the way to 114.7. Wiggins’ defensive rating is currently fourth on the team.
Wigs was challenged to become a more complete player when signing his max extension this summer, and so far he has done just that.
Tyus Jones had another big night playing in place of Jeff Teague, finishing with 16 points, six assists, four rebounds, four more steals, two 3-pointers and only one turnover. Since filling in for Teague, Jones has committed only four turnovers in 154 minutes, and only one the past three games, while swipping 16 steals.
There’s a lot of big Tyus Jones believers out there. It’s really interesting to see what happens once Teague is healthy. It’s obvious what Tyus brings to the Wolves that Teague doesn’t, a bulldog defensively, energy when things start to slow down and some truly excellent passing.
If nothing else, this is a great problem to have for Thibs. Going forward, how will he manage it?
Assuming Teague and Bjleica can come back soon, Thibs will likely run with a nine man rotation and 240 minutes to divide up. Bazz has seemingly been cut out of the rotation, as Thibs has staggered his forward minutes to keep at least one of Butler or Wiggins on the floor at all times.
With a healthy roster, there’s no reason Thibs has to run Gibson and Towns into the ground every night either. Gibson has been ultra efficient, but so has Bjelica. Dieng has started to show signs of life as well. If Thibs gives 100 minutes to his four big-men, the Wolves should sit pretty most nights matching-up with most teams.
With Butler or Wiggins manning the small forward all game, Teague, Jones and Crawford can round out the guard positions. Assuming Wiggins and Butler pick up about 35 minutes each, that leaves 70 minutes to the latter trio. With Crawford getting around 18-20, Jones and Teague could have a nice 40-60 split.
Thibs likes to keep his rotations tight, but notoriously consistent. The decision to stagger Wiggins and Butler was a big shift for him and is the key moving forward, as it gives secondary lineups a better defensive presence, something they’ve been killed with recently. It wouldn’t have been possible without Wiggins making that jump defensively.
If there’s a silver lining to the recent injuries, it’s that Thibs has had to change up his rotations for once, and it seems to have set off alarm bells.