Road Trip Thoughts: A bad start, a Saric revelation, and the playoff picture

Tuesday night in Memphis was bad. Yes, the call at the end was a tough one to take for the Wolves, but it was probably the right call. There are plenty of reasons to be upset about the game, but the call at the end of the game shouldn’t be at the top of the list.

Instead, the Wolves beginning the game in the fashion that they did is what cost them. Minnesota was down 23-4 in the early stages to Memphis – a team that only had nine available players – and ultimately never led in the game. The Wolves didn’t show up for a game they needed, and it cost them.

After Saturday night’s loss at home to Denver, the locker room felt rather somber. It felt as if the team knew just how big of an opportunity had been squandered. Tuesday night wasn’t as much of an opportunity as it was a necessity. The loss to Memphis is one that never should have happened, especially considering the Grizzlies held out Marc Gasol due to impending trade talks with the deadline approaching on Thursday afternoon.

It’s been written too many times that an individual game is a perfect microcosm of the season for the Wolves, but it continues to ring true in what is becoming a lost season, if it isn’t already one. The loss to Memphis only makes the playoffs more unlikely, even if the Wolves got a bit of help across the league very early on Wednesday morning.

The LA Clippers sent Tobias Harris to Philadelphia in exchange for a couple of first round picks and a few young players. For the Sixers this signals going for it all this season, but for the Clippers it means they seemingly have no interest in chasing the No. 8 seed in the west. The Clippers have a couple of prizes this offseason that they now have room for. Taking a step back right now means potentially taking a giant leap forward this offseason.

The Clippers doing that essentially eliminates one of the teams that stand between the Wolves and the playoffs. Entering Wednesday, the Clippers actually sit in the playoff picture, with Sacramento and the Lakers sitting within 2.5 games of eighth. The Wolves sit four games out of the playoffs with two teams to pass with 29 games left to play. It’s tough to envision the Wolves being able to climb back into the race, especially considering the Lakers have the consensus best player in the world in LeBron James, and the Wolves don’t.

Dario Saric’s best performance

The best thing to come out of Tuesday’s loss was the play of Saric, specifically in the first half. Saric played his best minutes in a Wolves uniform, which happened to come the day after his best practice in a Wolves uniform, according to interim coach Ryan Saunders.

Saric scored 22 points – 16 of which game on his first shift – grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists. In a game the Wolves lost by two, they outscored the Grizzlies by TWENTY-NINE in the 33 minutes he was on the floor.

Inversely, Taj Gibson was ineffective and dealt with foul trouble throughout the night. He finished with only two points in 13 minutes and was a minus-26 while on the floor.

Gibson went on record back in November stating that it didn’t matter to him whether or not he started or came off the bench, but it was something he didn’t want to be flip-flopping regularly. Now may be the time to make that move once and for all. Saric has also publicly said that he prefers to be a starter and feels as if he’s a better player when he is one. It could be in the best interest of the Wolves to gauge just how good Saric is and if he’ll be part of the future.

Luol Deng continues to impress

Deng had yet another good game. He’s currently second in the NBA in DNP-CDs, trailing only Miami’s Udonis Haslem. He finished with 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting off the bench in 22 minutes.

What Deng has been able to do since joining the rotation has been nothing short of impressive. He’s the true definition of professionalism as he’s stayed ready despite suiting up and sticking to the bench in 39 games this season.

His recent performance begs the question of whether or not a team that needs just one more wing could be calling the Wolves about his availability prior to the NBA Trade Deadline. He could be a fit somewhere, and it could net the Wolves a second-round pick, and in the area the Wolves are in right now, assets matter.

Another tough night for Andrew Wiggins

After the loss to Denver on Saturday night, Saunders responded to a question about Wiggins by telling the media that he needed more from him. Saunders was more than justified in saying that, because it couldn’t be more accurate.

Saunders needed more from him yet again on Tuesday night. Wiggins finished with 12 points on 5-of-18 shooting in the loss. It’s tough for the Wolves to win on the nights when he turns in efforts like that one. He just isn’t the player that the team needs him to be.

Tuesday also saw Jerryd Bayless have a tough night. It was probably his worst game since being injected into the rotation. He deserves a pass because of how good he has been as of late, and this can probably be attributed to a guy just having an off night.

The Wolves continue this road trip on Thursday night in Orlando. The trade deadline is set for 3 p.m. on Thursday, and the Wolves likely won’t be major players, but we’ll see. Talk to you then.