Another edition of Good, Bad, or Ugly comes after an atrocious road trip knocks the Wolves out of realistic playoff contention, Karl-Anthony Towns dominates, and Keita Bates-Diop emerges as maybe a piece for the Wolves in the future.
Here we go…
The Wolves have struggled away from Target Center this season, that’s been well-documented. Their nine wins on the road this season rank third-last in the Western Conference. They just can’t figure out a way to win in someone else’s building.
Entering the most recent road trip, the Wolves looked like they were finally ready to go on a legitimate run towards the playoffs. They were coming off of a win over the Kings at home and moved temporarily ahead of the Lakers in the standings.
Then, they went into Atlanta and lost an overtime game to the Hawks. The Wolves then flew to Indiana and lost to the Pacers the very next night before wrapping up the road trip by allowing 135 points in a loss to the Washington Wizards.
That was their fourth winless road trip of the season of three or more games. They’ve had winless trips of five, four, and three games (twice) this year. Those trips alone left the Wolves at 0-15. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to realize that results on the road that poor would prevent a team from reaching its goals.
“I think our thing was we let one thing carry over to the next,” Tyus Jones said. “That Atlanta game, I think, hurt us. We knew how important that one was for us and we felt like we had good positioning in the game, for the most part. It was kind of back and forth but we felt good coming out of that fourth quarter. And even down the stretch, we felt pretty good. To not close it out going to overtime and then end up losing, I think we let that carry over to Indiana — which is a natural thing to do but you gotta try not to do that. And then that one loss turned to two and then things started going downhill from there. We just gotta do a better a job of trying to shut that off. Let one game if it goes bad it goes bad, but put that behind us and not let that carry over. I think that’s kinda where we got lost this past road trip.”
The Wolves have let negative things snowball far too often this season. Really, an argument could be made that this entire season has been a result of negativity from the start that has continued to snowball. The Minneapolis weather certainly wouldn’t disagree with that.
Karl-Anthony Towns, the playmaker!
It’s well-chronicled how good Towns has been lately with his offensive production. He’s currently playing the best basketball of his career at both ends of the floor. Every time he steps on the floor he becomes more and more likely to achieve All-NBA status for the second consecutive season.
Towns is doing more and more every night to try and will the Wolves to victories, and that includes making plays for himself and others.
How many humans that are 7-foot tall can do this on an NBA floor? This list is not very long. It begs the question of just how high Towns’ ceiling is. The question of whether or not he can be the best player on a championship team isn’t a fair one, but could he end up in the second tier of NBA players? Quite possibly.
Even better, watching Towns expand his game to include playmaking, both in the half court and in transition is impressive to see.
Seeing Towns be able to collect the rebound and just go without the assistance of anyone else is a treat to see. It’s great when it results in an easy basket for someone else, but it’s fun to see him go coast-to-coast himself. More of this please.
He’s never going to be an elite level ballhandler, but allowing him to do more of this would be a good thing for the Wolves.
I wrote about the 90s Night the Milwaukee Bucks held in last week’s edition of this. Milwaukee’s version of it was amazing. From the Ja Rule performance to the graphics and almost everything in between.
The Wolves have had a few 90s nights this year. While they haven’t had a halftime performance as riveting as Ja Rule, they do complete the look by actually wearing their uniforms from the 90s.
Isn’t it more fun to remember electrifying moments from Towns’ career in this uniforms?
— NBA (@NBA) March 6, 2019
The black alternates from back in the day are my favorite look in Wolves history. There’s almost nothing wrong with the uniform. The font, the trees, the logo, all of it is amazing. The current look that the Wolves wear as their primary uniform is a solid one, it’s just not as good as the throwback uniforms.
Taj’s Flagrant 2
Against Detroit Taj Gibson was ejected from a game for the second time this season. This was due to a Flagrant 2 foul when he knocked down Detroit’s Andre Drummond.
Gibson didn’t deserve to be ejected for this. It was a foul, sure, but it shouldn’t have been anything more than a common foul. There was nothing malicious about this. The worst part about it was Drummond taking exception to the play.
Taj Gibson with the flagrant 2 – good or bad call? pic.twitter.com/oTBpQ6Xtn3
— DailySportsDosage (@OfficalDSD) March 7, 2019
Gibson was attempted a box out of Drummond. A common foul would have been fine, but jumping all the way to an ejection was pretty ridiculous.
Keita Bates-Diop has had this season essentially treated like a redshirt season. Prior to this last stretch of games, Bates-Diop had only played in six games, with all of his minutes in garbage time. With the absence of Luol Deng due to a sore left Achilles, KBD has been injected into the rotation.
He’s not blown anyone away with his play on the court, but he’s been serviceable for the most part. In his last seven games he’s a minus-3 on the court, mostly due to the blowout losses against Washington and Detroit. At this point, the 48th overall pick contributing anything is a win for the Wolves.
He’s looked at home on the floor, and one of the better parts of his game has been his ability to cut away from the ball. He’s been able to get to the rim easily thanks to the use of timely drives at the rim creating an easy bucket.
KBD hasn’t been a good shooter to this point in his very young career, and that’s something obviously realized by him. But what he has been good at is finding the right time to be around the rim and available for a pass. He’s scored 11 of his 14 baskets inside the restricted area.
What’s even better than him realizing that he’s best off taking those shots, is that he’s taking great looks. Bates-Diop is 11-of-12 on attempts inside the restricted area, mostly because they’re almost all wide open.
This one has the added defensive play before he’s rewarded for running the floor at the other end.
There’s no telling what the future for KBD holds, but this is encouraging. The Wolves think he can be part of their future. He still has a good deal of growing to do to get there, but there’s reasons to think it can happen.
Speaking of Bates-Diop, he was tasked with unquestionably the toughest cover of his very young NBA career when the Thunder were in town as he was tasked with dealing with Paul George at times. That meant one rookie was having to handle him at times (Wiggins spent much of his time defending George), while Josh Okogie was the primary defender of Russell Westbrook for much of the night.
George was coming off a shoulder injury, and Westbrook had a relatively big night statistically speaking, but the Wolves got the win.
“I think we’re learning a lot more about Keita, too, as he gets more minutes, in terms of what he can guard, his length. I like the job he did on him,” interim coach Ryan Saunders said after that game. “The more days that go by the more opportunities that Keita gets. We feel more comfortable with him and we look at him as a big part of our future. Andrew did a nice job on him (George) as well, who’s a tough cover, whoever you put on him.”
It wasn’t perfect, as nothing the Wolves have done this year has been, but it was a step in the right direction for both rookies, and Wiggins on that end of the floor.