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Road Trip Takeaways: Wiggins and Culver shine in loss to Memphis

The Wolves lost their second straight game on Wednesday night in Memphis to the Grizzlies. Winning on the road is never easy in the NBA, but this is one the Wolves should have had.

Things were tough for Minnesota partly due to the fact that both Shabazz Napier (hamstring) and Jeff Teague (illness) were unable to suit up for the Wolves. The backcourt depth was stretched thin, but that ultimately wasn’t the culprit.

Let’s start with the good and work our way to the bad tonight.

Andrew Wiggins is looking more comfortable by the night

Wiggins has had his moments this year. He’s been trying to make the admittedly difficult adjustment to playing in a different system that’s challenged what he’s always been comfortable doing – shooting midrange jump shots.

Wednesday night was another step in the right direction for Wiggins. He’s going to have hiccups during this season. Whether that’s a stretch of bad games in a row or a stretch of poor possessions strung together. But Wednesday night may have been his most complete game on this young season.

Wiggins finished the night with 30 points on 11-of-21 shooting, and only one of his 20 shots was attempted between 16 feet and the 3-point arc. He also dished out six assists, essentially filling in as the lead guard with both Napier and Teague sidelined.

Sure, seeing a rebounding number higher than just two would’ve been something to improve upon, especially on a night where the Wolves were out rebounded 49-36 by Memphis.

Outside of that, there’s little to complain about from Wiggins in this loss. He stepped up and did his job, and then some. Even with Towns back from his two-game suspension, Wiggins was the best player on the floor for the Wolves. That’s obviously not a long-term recipe for success, but this version of Wiggins bumps up the ceiling of this team by a considerable margin.

Jarrett Culver in a different role

The start of the season for Culver hasn’t been kind to the rookie. He’s struggled with adjusting to the NBA for the most part, but Wednesday night felt like his best showing.

Culver was inserted into the starting lineup for the first time in his career thanks to both Teague and Napier being out. He looked more comfortable than he has to date. Sure, the game against Washington was good for him this past weekend, too, but in that game he did most of his damage in a non-competitive second half.

Culver’s final line was 15 points, seven assists, and five rebounds in 30 minutes. Despite the Wolves losing by 16, they outscored the Grizzlies by four when Culver was on the floor.

The role that Culver ultimately might fill is that of a lead guard. His shooting still needs to improve, but he’s got good enough vision right now to help set up teammates for open looks. That’s one of his best attributes as a rookie and should be utilized as such. As time goes on and he becomes more comfortable playing at the NBA level, it might make sense to give him more opportunity to run the offense on a regular basis, even when Teague and Napier are healthy.

Towns was back, but rusty

Everyone knows that Towns was suspended for two games for a scuffle for Joel Embiid last week in Philadelphia. Well, we can finally stop talking about that since he’s back allowed on the court now for the Wolves.

In his return on Tuesday Towns put up a solid stat line but didn’t quite seem himself. Sure, 25 points and 13 rebounds are numbers that anyone would seemingly take any chance possible, but it didn’t feel like his impact on the game matched that. He was only 3-of-11 from deep.

This isn’t to say he played poorly, but he just didn’t play the same, unbelievably good, way that he did prior to the suspension. Maybe it’s just rust, and he’ll look dominant again on Friday night against the Warriors.

Talk to you then.


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