MINNEAPOLIS – Nineteen quick thoughts from Minnesota’s 117-104 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night at Target Center.
1. The last time these two teams met, the Wolves were mere seconds away from a victory, only to have it snatched away by a series of unfortunate, unbelievable events. The most memorable of which was Jordan Bell being assessed a technical foul for a delay of game due to an untucked jersey as he walked on the floor in the game’s final minute.
2. That technical foul was assessed, partly, because Oklahoma City’s Chris Paul pointed it out to the officiating crew. They then had little choice but to enforce the rule.
3. Monday night was the first meeting between the two teams since, and Paul made as grand of an entrance onto the floor as he could have for a regular season game.
Chris Paul taking the floor with an untucked jersey. Just amazing. pic.twitter.com/ykZl1jML3N
— Danny Cunningham (@RealDCunningham) January 14, 2020
5. This petty act was one to remind the Wolves of what happened the last time these two teams met. It’s a night that neither of these two teams have forgotten, and one that has sent the two squads in opposite directions.
6. Since that night, the Wolves are 5-13 and the Thunder are 14-5. It might not have been the moment that changed the season for either squad, but it’s certainly one that can be looked back on as a ‘what if?’ moment.
7. Paul didn’t need to do much else to help the Thunder emerge victorious against the Wolves. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari took care of that for him. Gilgeous-Alexander finished the night as just the fifth player in Thunder history with a triple-double, totaling 20 points, 20 rebounds, and 10 assists.
8. “He had 20 rebounds?” Josh Okogie said when asked a question about Gilgeous-Alexander’s night. Okogie then turned to Robert Covington in disbelief, only to have Covington recite the stat line. “That’s crazy. …I don’t even know what to say to that,” Okogie finished.
9. After a really impressive month defensively, the Wolves have looked lifeless at that end in back-to-back games. Saturday against Houston was one of the worst defensive performances the Wolves have had to date, and Monday night against Oklahoma City wasn’t much better.
10. Against the Wolves, the Thunder were just one free throw away from accomplishing a 50-40-90 game. In other words, they shot 50.6% from the field, 40% from 3-point range, and 88.5% from the free throw line.
11. It’s tough to put a finger on why things have slipped defensively so swiftly. Maybe the energy isn’t at the same level it’s been at lately, or maybe it’s something else. Or maybe the Wolves don’t quite have the answer yet.
12. “To be honest, I don’t even know,” Andrew Wiggins said.
13. The brightest spot for the Wolves on Monday was the play of rookie big man Naz Reid.
14. His first stint on the court was disastrous. It lasted 2:49 in the second quarter, he picked up three quick fouls, and then had to be pulled in favor of Gorgui Dieng. It looked like Thunder big man Steven Adams was far too much for the rookie, but the second half proved to be much kinder to Reid.
15. “Just be ready to go back in,” Reid said of his mindset after the quick hook in the first half. “You know you’ll get another opportunity. You just have to make the best of it.”
16. Once he got another opportunity, it paid off for him. Reid scored all 20 of his points in the second half, knocking down four 3-pointers in eight attempts in just 18 minutes of play.
17. “Yeah, it was encouraging,” coach Ryan Saunders said of the performance in the second half. “I thought we had a number of guys that really competed. I thought Naz in his minutes did a nice job with that, in terms of being aggressive. Also, I thought also he did his best to be a ball mover along the 3-point line as well.”
18. Throughout this stretch without Karl-Anthony Towns, Reid has shown that he can certainly become an NBA-level big man with time and development. There’s no telling just how long it will take, but there’s certainly reason to believe that it will happen.
19. The Wolves are back in action on Wednesday against Indiana. Talk to you then.