MINNEAPOLIS – Twenty-six quick thoughts for 26 minutes played by Andrew Wiggins in Minnesota’s 132-105 win over the Sacramento Kings on Monday night at Target Center.
1. This team remains a mystery. A strange mix of good, bad, ugly, confusing, and befuddling.
2. The Wolves are near-impossible to beat at Target Center, but look like – at times – they don’t know how to play basketball on the road. One night they’re a team oozing with potential and dreams of a playoff run, and they next they look like one that’s waiting for the NBA Draft Lottery in May. When they’re inside Target Center, anything looks possible, when they’re away from Target Center, nothing does.
3. No one has been able to figure out the Wolves this season, not even themselves. This team can be a good team, no question, they just don’t always appear that way.
4. Monday’s win over the Kings needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Sacramento was playing its third game in four nights, and on the second night of a back-to-back after winning in Dallas on Sunday night. Being competitive on nights like this one can be a tall task for some teams, and Sacramento realized that. Coach Dave Joerger recognized that prior to the game, informing the media he may be turning to his bench sooner than usual for his rotations. Ulitmately, he waved the white flag in the second quarter as the Wolves’ lead grew to as large as 36 points. The only starter for the Kings that played 11 minutes or more was Buddy Hield, and he finished with 18 minutes all in the first half. In fact, three of the Kings’ starters, De’Aaron Fox, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Nemanja Bjelica, didn’t log a single second of game action after the first quarter. None of the starters played in the second half.
5. None of this should discredit the performance that the Wolves had, but it should be noted.
6. There certainly were good things that came out of this game for the Wolves. With Jeff Teague unable to play due to left ankle inflammation it opened the door for rookie wing Josh Okogie.
7. The fans at Target Center were filled with jubilation as the rookie got off the bench for the first time in the first quarter, as they are every time he gets in the game. He gave them plenty to cheer about as well.
8. The best way to describe Okogie may just be that he does things. Not all of them are positive, though most are. He did plenty of things on Monday night. He caught an electrifying lob from Tyus Jones, finished a dunk that ultimately sent three members of the Kings to the floor, and showed up on the defensive end. Okogie finished the night a team-high plus-33, and that stat reflects the type of game that he had.
9. At this point, there’s no excuse to not have Okogie on the floor on a regular basis. Yes, the rotation is a bit jammed and coach Tom Thibodeau seems stuck in his ways that he wants to keep it at nine men playing on a regular basis, but Okogie brings too much on to the floor to waste.
10. “We’re going to look for situations we can use him,” Thibodeau said. “The thing that I like, I think he’s grown quite a bit. Even when he’s not in the rotation, I like the way he approaches things – how he is in practice, how he watches film. He’s asking great questions. He’s engaged. He’s doing all the things he should be doing.”
11. Using him in specific situations is a start, but it’s not getting the most out of the player. He doesn’t need to be someone that’s getting a ton of run, but getting Okogie around 12-15 minutes on a nightly basis surely will help the Wolves. He constantly brings energy to the floor, which is something the Wolves have lacked at times.
Josh Okogie in the 2nd quarter. Dear sweet mother of Zeus pic.twitter.com/xO9VoChKDG
— Kyle Ratke (@Kyle_Ratke) December 18, 2018
13. “That’s how I play. I don’t know any other way to play,” Okogie said “Any time I’m in the game I’m always going to try and do the dirty work, try to get my team going.”
14. The Wolves need more of that, and they have the perfect guy to supply it.
15. “You definitely do, you definitely do. Non-stop, right. He’s literally like that,” Jones said of Okogie. “It could be on the plane, two in the morning, it could be at shootaround, a walk-through, practice after… It could be whatever. That’s how he’s going to be. As soon as he walks in the gym he’s joking, joking all over the place. His energy is unbelievable and it’s definitely contagious. We feed off of that.”
16. If Teague misses an extended period of time Okogie would surely be on the floor more. If he comes back on Wednesday night against Detroit it will be interesting to see how much Okogie plays, if at all.
17. Teague missing the game did more than just elevate Okogie’s minutes count, but it also gave Jones more of an impact. He finished with a double-double in 23 minutes, but more importantly had the opportunity to be the primary playmaker on the floor more often with the team down a point guard.
18. Jones and Derrick Rose did not spend a single second on the floor together against the Kings. That’s not something that happens when the Wolves are at full-strength. Typically that pairing will open up the second quarter on the floor together and nearly all of Jones’ minutes will come alongside Rose. Monday night showed what Jones is capable of, and how he may be unable to reach his full potential with the group at full capacity.
19. As for Rose, he had a tough night shooting (3-of-12) but gave terrific minutes as an actual point guard, something he isn’t asked to truly do that often. He finished with a season-high 11 assists in the victory.
20. While the Okogie experience may have been the highlight of the night, don’t let it distract from the fact that Taj Gibson attempted to block a shot in the first half with his shoe.
This is how you play defense with a shoe pic.twitter.com/8bwvs89A10
— Kyle Ratke (@Kyle_Ratke) December 18, 2018
22. His shoe came off while he was on the offensive end of the floor. He then picked it up, ran down on the defensive end, played defense in a sock, and ultimately attempted to swat Bjelica’s shot. While the shoe-less wonder couldn’t get it, Karl-Anthony Towns was able to extend his leap higher than that of Gibson’s shoe and send the ball to the stands.
This is one of the more remarkable photos I've seen from a live-action NBA game (credit Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports). pic.twitter.com/fImzD7VlhO
— Danny Cunningham (@RealDCunningham) December 18, 2018
24. Find a more surprising picture than this one in an NBA regular season game. While plenty of things in the NBA continue to be wild, this is a new one.
25. In a weird, inexplicable season for the Wolves, this may be the moment that most encapsulates it.
26. The Wolves will be back at it on Wednesday night at Target Center as the Detroit Pistons come to town. Talk to you then.