MINNEAPOLIS – Twenty-seven quick thoughts for the 27 assists dished out by the Wolves in Saturday night’s 107-106 loss to the Denver Nuggets at Target Center.
1. With 1:04 remaining in regulation on Saturday night Karl-Anthony Towns turned the ball over along Denver’s baseline with the Wolves trailing 105-104. The Wolves sulked, didn’t get back on defense, and let the game slip away the very next second.
2. Denver’s Nikola Jokic tallied his 10th and final assist – giving him a triple-double – with a full-court, baseball style pass to Malik Beasley, who had slipped behind an unaware Andrew Wiggins for the basket.
4. In a game that could do major damage to any playoff chances the Wolves may have had, this play perfectly summed up this season. Minnesota fell asleep in a moment when it mattered most.
5. This was a game that the Wolves couldn’t afford to lose. The chances of this team heading to the playoffs decrease more and more by the loss, as they’re now further down in the loss column with time running out in the season.
6. “Come up short. Playing hard. One or two possessions. It’s the NBA. But it’s tough,” said Taj Gibson in a rather somber Minnesota locker room after the loss. “Really felt we had that one, we just got to get back to the drawing board, figure some things out. We have to step up, we have to do better. Including myself. We have to put more into it. No excuses. We have to enjoy our job, we have to do a lot better. This loss tonight, it’s tough.”
7. This loss to Denver even had built in an advantage for the Wolves. It was Denver’s fourth game in six nights, and the second night of a back-to-back. The Nuggets beat the Houston Rockets in Denver on Friday night in a game that tipped off at 9:30 p.m. CT and then arriving in Minneapolis roughly around 4 a.m. local time.
8. That’s something the Wolves should have been able to take advantage of. Instead, they head back to the drawing board, having to search for answers where things went wrong. That’s been a common theme throughout the season as a whole.
9. There are going to be several nights where this franchise will be able to look back on this season as ‘what ifs’ if the playoffs aren’t reached. Saturday night will be near the top of that list.
10. There are issues that are deeper than the full court pass Jokic threw. The play of Wiggins in the second half as a whole was bad. He finished with 10 points, four rebounds, and four assists. He floated through the second half with two points and two rebounds. In the fourth quarter he played five minutes, went scoreless and grabbed a rebound. Plain and simple, the Wolves need more out of him.
11. “We’d love to have more than,” interim coach Ryan Saunders said. “We’d love to have more from him than what we had tonight. So, we’ll look forward to that next time.”
12. The problem is that it’s not possible to tell when the next time they get more from him will be. Each time it looks like he turns a corner, he takes a step back.
13. “Just try and get more involved,” said Wiggins in response to a question of how he can prevent from being quiet during games like this. “Go to the ball. Try and grab more rebounds. Try to engage more.”
14. At some point, it has to be more than that. If the Wolves are going to get to where they want to be, Wiggins cannot continue to point to needing to try and do those things. He needs to actually do it.
15. The other fault with the way this game transpired was the fact that the Wolves were unable to get the ball into the hands of Towns on the final possession for an opportunity to win the game.
16. “What we wanted was Dario to slip out, Bayless comes off, KAT acts like he’s running into another pick and roll, he backs off,” Saunders said. “And Bayless, he’s either going to the rim or he has KAT at the rim because Plumlee has to step up. We didn’t get it. They played it well.”
17. The plan was to get him the ball, as it should’ve been, but the Wolves just couldn’t execute. Instead it turned into Luol Deng attempted a game-winner from the right corner that bounced off the rim.
18. The play actually did generate a good look for Deng that he just wasn’t able to knock down, but the game needs to be decided by Towns, despite how well Deng has been playing since joining the rotation.
19. Towns was great for the most part against Denver. He finished with 31 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists. It’s a shame that he wasn’t able to have the opportunity to put his signature on the game with another game-winner, like he did Wednesday night.
20. It’s fair to think about the job that Saunders has done so far with the Wolves since taking over early last month. He’s improved the team in some areas, but despite some close losses, any criticism probably isn’t warranted at this point.
21. Saunders has been dealt a tough hand so far. He’s been forced to coach a rotation without any of the team’s top three point guards consistently, and Robert Covington has yet to play a game with him as the coach. It is fair to wonder how much better his record would look at the helm if he had a healthy assortment of players. What losses would have been wins if some combination of Covington, Teague, Jones, or Rose were available? That will never be known, but their record would likely be a tad different.
22. Saunders is quick to bring up the “no excuses” line when those things are brought up, and he’s right. Every team in the NBA deals with injuries. The Wolves dealing with them is normal, but seeing them nearly deplete an entire position and take away the team’s best defender is tough to handle. Saunders has done an admirable job thus far.
23. The one positive that has come out of the depleted point guard position is that Bayless has shown he can play. He’s been terrific in the absence of the others. On Saturday he had another double-double, finishing with 15 points and 10 assists.
24. Bayless was a guy that didn’t know when his chance was going to come. He’s been in the NBA for 11 seasons and bounced around quite a bit. He was buried on the depth chart once he finished his knee rehab, and needed injuries to others in order to get his opportunity.
25. Since being given the chance, he hasn’t looked back. In his last seven games, Bayless has averaged 14.4 points per game and 7.1 assists per game while turning the ball over just 1.7 times per game.
26. He’s an unrestricted free agent following the season, but if the price is right he should be given a look. In the right situation, Bayless can absolutely help a team, whether it’s the Wolves or not.
27. The Wolves now hit the road for a three-game trip beginning on Tuesday night in Memphis. Talk to you after.