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Last Shots: On Utah’s adjustment and Wiggins’ return to action



MINNEAPOLIS – Twenty-four quick thoughts for the 24 field goals attempted by Andrew Wiggins in Minnesota’s 103-95 loss to Utah at Target Center on Wednesday night.

1. Monday night the Wolves felt like they were hanging on by a thread for much of the night in Utah before closing the game out on a terrific 32-16 extended run to cap off a 112-102 win. On Wednesday night the game felt a similar way, but had an entirely different end result.

2. The Wolves were able to keep things close with Utah, and occasionally jump out in front, but like Monday night, this game was played at the speed Utah preferred.

3. The Wolves make it a point of emphasis to force teams to adjust to what they do rather than adjusting to opponents themselves. Utah did do this between Monday and Wednesday, and the Wolves didn’t seem to have much of an answer for it on the offensive end.

4. After allowing Karl-Anthony Towns to essentially roam free beyond the arc for much of the game on Monday the Jazz changed their defensive philosophy. Monday night they allowed Towns to launch 15 threes, connecting on seven of them. Wednesday was a much different story as Towns didn’t even get 15 shot attempts in total, let alone from 3-point range.

5. “They played the pick and rolls a little bit differently, especially with KAT,” Andrew Wiggins said after the loss. “When he popped they didn’t leave him like they did in the game before, they made sure they stayed with him. That was a big change.”

6. Towns was very rarely left without a body on him no matter where he was on the floor on Wednesday night. Instead of Utah’s All-NBA center Rudy Gobert loosely contesting Towns’ bombs from 25-plus feet away, he was within arm’s reach of Towns whenever possible, and if it wasn’t him, someone else was there. It was clear that the Jazz were not going to let Towns beat them twice in a week.

7. “Yeah, I thought they did a nice job. I wouldn’t say they schemed him out of this game. I think there were a number of things that went into it. I’m not saying it’s the only thing, but they definitely did a nice job with him,” head coach Ryan Saunders said. “You can tell that there was an emphasis on taking Karl out of it, but we felt with that we could get drives to the basket, which we were able to early, and then towards the end they weren’t there for us.”

8. That adjustment made by Utah sapped any rhythm Towns seemed to have built up from Monday night’s win. Well, that, and the early foul trouble he found himself in. Towns picked up a pair of personal fouls within the first six minutes of the game, sending him to the bench. To make things worse, that was already after Wiggins was sent away in foul trouble, and both of their second fouls were iffy, at best.

9. Saunders was visibly angry with the officiating crew during the early portion of the game and drew his first technical foul of the season a little over a minute after Towns’ second foul.

10. “I thought we went away from some of the things we wanted to do early,” Saunders said. “Just rhythm wasn’t great. And having to sit that much time [with foul trouble], then they did a nice job on him. They did. We had some costly turnovers when we were trying to get him the ball in the post off the switch at times. But, they did a nice job.”

11. The Wolves did get Wiggins back from his three-game absence (personal/illness) on Wednesday night, but it was clear that he was a tad rusty. If the same version of Wiggins that has been a fixture at Target Center this season shows up on Wednesday night, the Wolves probably find a way to win this game. Instead, Wiggins was searching for his touch on his outside shot for much of the night, finishing 1-of-10 from 3-point land and just 1-of-3 at the free throw line.

12. That’s not all bad, though. In fact, it can be spun as encouraging.

13. Wiggins is going to have off nights shooting the ball. The greatest players that have ever played basketball have had them, and Wiggins will have more of them in the future, no question. But despite the fact that he was struggling with his shot from outside of the paint, he kept taking them, and the right ones at that.

14. The old version of Wiggins easily could have reverted back to old habits at the first sign of struggling, but this version of him did not. His mark from outside the arc is obviously bad, but he was still able to find a way to attack the rim at an acceptable rate.

15. Think back to roughly this time last year. The Wolves hosted the Chicago Bulls in one of, if not the worst game of Wiggins’ career. He finished that night scoreless on 0-of-12 from the floor with one rebound and one assist. It was certainly a game for him to forget, but the differences between that poor shooting night – to the extreme, granted – and this one are so stark it’s worth mentioning.

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17. In that 0-of-12 performance, Wiggins took just three attempts inside the paint, and only one of them was near the basket. If the shot wasn’t falling from wherever he was taking it – which it wasn’t – Wiggins stood no chance.

18. That’s what makes this version of a rough game for Wiggins encouraging. Sure, he missed plenty of jumpers. His 22 points on 10-of-24 shooting is far from an impressive line, but Wednesday night’s shot chart showed just how much his approach to the game on offense has changed.

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20. Going 1-of-10 from 3-point range hurts, no question, but the best way for Wiggins to make up for having a bit of a rusty touch was to attack the basket, even if Gobert is one of the best rim defenders in the NBA. That’s exactly what Wiggins did and how he found success. When the Wolves were in danger of seeing things slip out of hand, he was the one to help keep things close often times, and he did that by finishing 9-of-13 near the rim.

21. Only one of the starters for the Wolves had a positive net rating on Wednesday night. Towns was a minus-20, Robert Covington a minus-3, Jeff Teague had a rough game and finished minus-9, and Treveon Graham was a minus-15. When Wiggins was on the floor, the Wolves outscored Utah by one. This isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s certainly something that’s worth noting in the very least.

22. “Just missed a lot of easy shots, shots that I usually make or would feel better didn’t feel as good today,” Wiggins said. “Tomorrow, just going to work on it, get it back.”

23. There isn’t a large historical sample size showing that he’s going to return to the form he had a week ago, but even on a bad shooting night Wednesday there were signs that what we’ve seen so far is real.

24. The Wolves are back in action on Saturday afternoon as old friend Ricky Rubio and the Phoenix Suns come to town. Talk to you after.





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