Another night out west for the Wolves and another loss. This one at the hands of the Sacramento Kings 141-130. Things aren’t great for Minnesota right now as it drops to 0-3 on the road trip. Here are eight observations from Wednesday night’s game.
The math problem, again
As it was written following the game against Golden State, the Wolves have a math problem when teams shoot well from deep. Despite being one of the better teams in the NBA at knocking down threes, the Wolves don’t take them at nearly a high enough rate.
On Wednesday night the Wolves attempted 22 threes in the loss, the Kings made 19 of them. How can a team expect to win games like this when routinely being outscored from behind the arc? The deficit in 3-point scoring was 57-27. That’s mostly insurmountable. So far on the road trip out west Minnesota has been outscored 144-69. To make things even worse, the Wolves have attempted 63 threes while opponents have taken 114 of them. That’s a huge reason as to why the Wolves haven’t been able to keep up with opponents out west.
Part of the reason the opponents have been able to shoot so well from deep is that Robert Covington hasn’t looked himself during this trip. He missed the game in Portland with a sore knee and has been listed on the injury report despite playing in both games since.
Okogie getting time
Everyone’s favorite rookie bench player got in on the action in the first half against Sacramento. He played in place of Covington to start the second quarter with the bench unit. Okogie logged six minutes, scored two points, but played well on the defensive end. It was a good sight to see him playing, even if it may be because Covington isn’t at full-strength.
Wiggins continuing to play well
Andrew Wiggins continued his hot stretch recently, and for the most part was one of the only positives the Wolves had in this game. He finished 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting.
Wiggins has been aggressive, and at times, the only thing keeping the Wolves afloat. On Wednesday he looked like the player that several teams tanked for back in the 2013-14 season. If the Wolves could bottle this up and keep it like this consistently, their ceiling becomes much higher than it currently is.
Good Rose, again
Derrick Rose had a rough night against Portland to begin this trip, but he’s rebounded nicely off of that game. He’s strung together back-to-back 20-point nights in the losses to Golden State and Sacramento. For much of the fourth quarter the Kings’ broadcasting crew was wondering aloud why Rose wasn’t on the floor to finish the game and just exactly how bad Minnesota would be without the resurgence from Rose. Those are both two very legitimate questions asked, and it’s hard to give an answer to either of them.
Nemanja Bjelica absolutely torched his former squad on Wednesday night. There’s no other way to put it. He was white-hot from the floor, finishing with a game-high 25 points. That included an absolute dagger of a 3-pointer with under two minutes to put the Kings back up by eight points. Minnesota had no answer for him. That’s something that had to feel good for a player that was essentially unwanted by the Wolves this past offseason.
Still winless on the road out west
The Minnesota Timberwolves have still not won a road game against a Western Conference opponent as of December 13. This is incredibly detrimental to being a good team. Their only two road wins have come against Cleveland and Brooklyn, in other words, two teams in the race for one of the stars currently enduring a season of college basketball at Duke.
Ten straight road losses to Western Conference teams isn’t the way the Wolves pictured this season started for them. Furthermore, Minnesota now slips farther down the playoff race out West. The Wolves are 2.5 games behind Sacramento for eighth place as the day begins on Thursday. That isn’t the issue as much as the fact that they’re in 13th place in the conference. That’s quite a hole to have to dig out of, again. As if this team hasn’t made things hard enough on itself with the early-season drama that created a 4-9 post-trade starting point.
This loss to the Kings now ensures that the best-case scenario for the Wolves is playing to a 2-2 draw in the head-to-head battle with Sacramento on the season. If the Kings are going to continue to compete for a playoff spot – assuming the Wolves find a way to stay in that discussion – then this could come into play in April.
If the Kings come into Target Center on Monday and beat the Wolves for the third time it would give them the tiebreaker. That’s another obstacle for the Wolves to have to deal with, but they have no one but themselves to blame.
If certainly feels like all the positivity and momentum created by the 9-3 stretch post-trade with 10 of the games at Target Center is gone. The Wolves finally got over the .500 mark, dug out of the hole created by the early-season struggles, and were squarely in the playoff hunt.
Three games later it feels as if none of that happened. Sure, this team is still in a better place without Jimmy Butler around, but they’re still behind the 8-ball. There were plenty of reasons for optimism at the beginning of this road trip, but three losses in, that’s gone. There’s no way that it can be deemed anything but a failure and can only get worse if the Wolves can’t find a way to beat the Suns on Saturday night in Phoenix.