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Road Trip Thoughts: Slowing down Doncic; Rookie growth; Wiggins’ impact

The Wolves fell to 10-10 on the season on Wednesday night with a 121-114 loss in Dallas to the Mavericks. In the loss the Wolves showed promise but ultimately couldn’t withstand a blistering hot fourth quarter from Dallas.

The fourth

Throughout the first three quarters of the game the Mavericks were just 4 of 26 from 3-point range. For a team that entered the night 10th in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage, that seemed pretty fluky, especially against the 22nd ranked 3-point defense that Minnesota employs.

Things then shifted back to the norm a bit as Dallas shot the lights out in the fourth quarter, posting a 7-of-11 mark from beyond the arc, and Minnesota ultimately couldn’t overcome that.

It shouldn’t be surprising that the Mavericks were able to go on that sort of run in the fourth quarter considering the circumstances. It’s really been the downside of an otherwise solid defense so far this season in Minnesota.

Rookie growth

Jarrett Culver has had a very up and down rookie season thus far for the Wolves. There are moments on the floor where it’s easy to see the potential that he’s got, and there have been other times when he looks a bit overmatched on the floor.

Wednesday night was one of the nights where it was very easy to see just what Culver can become. He’s at his best when he’s attacking the basket rather than relying on his work-in-progress jump shot. That’s exactly what he did against Dallas.

Culver was 1-of-4 on threes Wednesday (more on the one in a second) but did take most of his attempts at the basket. The rookie was 3-of-6 near the rim, which is where he’s obviously the most efficient.

Right now, Culver’s best attribute is getting to the rim. He can’t get there at will right now, but he does have a few different ways of getting there and experiencing success. The more often he finds himself near the rim, the better off he’s going to be in the present. The rest of his game is still developing and needs a bit of time before he’s going to flourish.

That said, Culver did have what is likely the best sequence of his career so far on Wednesday night. After perfectly switching onto Dallas’ Luka Doncic, he stripped the MVP candidate’s shot attempt, gathered the ball, raced up court, and splashed a three. That was the moment that most showed just what Culver can one day be.

Speaking of the MVP candidate

Since Doncic was just mentioned, let’s get into further detail.

So far this season he’s been nothing short of terrific. The discussion surrounding him is whether or not he’s the league’s MVP, and not just a candidate for the award. That thought is universal. He’s averaging nearly a triple-double at 30.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 9.4 assists entering play on Wednesday.

The Wolves did about a good of a job defensively on Doncic as anyone has to date this season. Minnesota held the phenom to just 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists. The Wolves actually outscored Dallas by 16 points when Doncic was on the floor, which marked just the second time this season that the Mavericks were outscored by double-digit points in a game when he was on the floor.

The problem, surprisingly, wasn’t Doncic, it was trying to stop everyone else that Dallas had. All five players that came off the bench for the Mavericks finished plus-11 or better when they were on the floor. Jalen Brunson poured in 16 points off the pine, with 14 of them coming in the fourth quarter. Dwight Powell had to leave the game early due to injury, but he had 24 points on a perfect 9-of-9 shooting from the floor.

That’s where the game was lost for the Wolves

Wiggins watch

Andrew Wiggins had a bit of a rough night shooting on Wednesday night, but he still found a way to make a positive impact for Minnesota, and that is progress if nothing else.

Wiggins was just 7-of-24 shooting on the night on his way to scoring 26 points. But what he did do well offensively was get to the free throw line. He attempted 11 free throws against Dallas, marking just the second time this season he’s gotten to the line double-digit times. He did so last week in the road win over San Antonio as well.

There are always going to be nights when he has a bad shooting performance, it happens. But the fact that he was still able to find a way to be good is something that hasn’t happened much throughout his career, but it’s happened lately.

Wiggins has also been more engaged defensively this year than he has in his entire career, it seems. Wednesday night he had three blocks, marking the fourth time in his past five games that he’s had multiple blocked shots.

The Wolves are back in action on Friday night in Oklahoma City against the Thunder. Tip is set for 7 p.m. CT.


Previous Story Last Shots: Wolves struggle again at home; KBD and Culver serve as bright spots; Tyus returns Next Story Towns and Wiggins have been good, but Wolves need more from the supporting cast