MINNEAPOLIS – Seventeen quick thoughts from Minnesota’s 137-116 loss at home to the Washington Wizards at Target Center on Friday night.
1. This was a game that the Wolves could’ve, and probably should’ve had – on paper at the very least. Even on a night when Andrew Wiggins was forced to be away from the team due to personal reasons, the Wolves should have been able to muster the energy to make this a much closer game than it was.
2. Instead, head coach Ryan Saunders waved the white flag with 4:44 left in regulation by emptying the bench with the Wolves down 124-109 against a Wizards team that entered the night with just a pair of wins in nine games so far this season.
3. “Very disappointing,” Saunders said of the effort from his team. “Tonight was not who we are; offensively, defensively. It just wasn’t who we’ve been. I don’t want to say you’re going to have games like that. We can’t have games like that. We believe in what we’re doing.”
4. The Wolves allowed Bradley Beal to crave up their defense to the tune of 44 points on 15-of-22 shooting and 10 assists. Beal having a terrific game should come as no surprise, he’s a great player and one of the best scorers in the NBA. At this point with the Wizards their wins are coming because he’s willing them to victory.
5. “I think that we didn’t do a good job of just helping each other out,” Josh Okogie said. “It was everybody was playing one-on-one, and as a team that emphasizes team defense we didn’t do a good job of that.”
6. The troubling part of this is that the Wolves have now played three elite scoring guards and been torched every time they’ve played. In Beal’s first outing against the Wolves he had 30 points, Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving had an opening night 50-burger, and Golden State’s D’Angelo Russell put up 52 points against the Wolves when they’ve played. This has the early look of an awful pattern.
7. Oh, by the way, Saturday night brings in James Harden and his 38.7 points per game average to Target Center. If the Wolves don’t have a better focus and energy level, it could get ugly, fast.
8. “If we do what we do tonight, he’ll score more than Bradley Beal,” Karl-Anthony Towns said. “We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to make those corrections and we’ve got to be better as a team energy-wise, and if we’re better tomorrow, we could come out with a W.”
9. Towns is spot on, if this team comes out the same way on Saturday as they did Friday, Harden could approach numbers higher than any of the guards the Wolves have played so far.
10. Aside from Beal torching the Wolves, Washington got 30 points and 15 rebounds off the bench from Moe Wagner. According to Basketball-Reference this was the first time since Yao Ming in 2002 that a player posted that line off the bench. Aside from that, he drew three charges and seemed to get into the mental headspace of the Wolves. He also drew a technical foul from Towns.
11. Towns was matched up with Wagner, spun off him while he flopped, dunked the ball, grabbed it after it fell through the net, and then calmly placed it in Wagner’s chest while he was still laying on the ground. It was a earned technical, but a bit comical at the same time.
12. “It’s not Wagner, it was our energy from all around,” Towns said. “I think that his shooting didn’t affect our mentality or anything. I think our mentality was messed up from the beginning, with just the aggression we didn’t put into the defensive end. We didn’t have the energy, we didn’t execute. It’d be different if we didn’t execute and we played very hard and aggressive, we could hide some of the execution problems we had tonight, but since we didn’t play as hard and as aggressive, it made our flaws look much, much brighter tonight.”
13. The obvious thing missing from this game for the Wolves was Andrew Wiggins. He was away from the team as he tended to a personal matter. There’s no telling if he’ll be back for the game on Saturday against Houston, but it was obvious that the Wolves missed him on Friday.
14. Wiggins has quickly turned himself from someone that couldn’t necessarily be counted on to someone that the Wolves need to look complete. His offensive presence was missed without question. What he’s been able to transform himself into as of late was put on display even more Friday, because of how sorely the team missed him.
15. As for the energy, if the Wolves don’t have it on Saturday, it could be an ugly night at Target Center. If that happens, the good feelings that have surrounded a very impressive start in the Western Conference could quickly fade for this team that all of a sudden is a playoff hopeful.
16. “For us to be an elite team and the team we want to be, we gotta find a way to do it for all 82,” Towns said of the energy level. “Obviously, we failed at that tonight. We can still be that team, but we can’t let it happen two games in a row. The elite teams, the Warriors, I don’t remember if it was one or two or three years ago when they didn’t lose two games in a row, I believe. We’ve got to have that kind of mindset where if we’re gonna lose one, we ain’t losing the next one. If we continue to do that, we’ll be in a great spot.”
17. The Wolves will try to not lose their second consecutive game on Saturday night against the Rockets, talk to you then.