MINNEAPOLIS – Twenty-three quick thoughts from Minnesota’s 115-107 home loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday afternoon at Target Center.
1. The Minnesota Timberwolves cannot figure out how to win inside their own building yet, and there’s little logic as to why. It’s not that the schedule has been overwhelmingly difficult at Target Center, because it hasn’t. It’s not that the Wolves are a bad team, because their record on the road would tell a different story.
2. Sunday afternoon was another dud turned in by this team that’s just 3-7 in its 10 games at Target Center this year. They’ve beaten the Miami Heat, the Golden State Warriors, and the San Antonio Spurs for their home wins. Sure, they’ve lost games to Milwaukee, Utah, Phoenix, Denver, and Houston at home, and losing to playoff teams is to be expected at times. But looking closer at how many of those games have been winnable tells a much different story, and that’s before bringing up Sunday’s loss to Memphis and the blowout loss to Washington at home.
3. “I’m not sure,” Andrew Wiggins said when asked for a reason as to why this keeps happening. “Maybe because away it’s us against everybody, so maybe we dig deeper on the road. But it’s no excuse to lose at home. This is our house, we gotta protect it.”
4. Whether it’s been a missing player or two, suspect defense, or in Sunday’s case, a lack of energy, there’s always been a reason as to why the Wolves couldn’t get it done in home games that they should have been able to win.
5. “There is no excuses,” Karl-Anthony Towns said after the loss. “I don’t’ want to hear nothing about this, that, snow, crowd, turkey, I don’t care, you got to get it done. We didn’t get it done today, energy-wise. Even for us, we’ve had so many games this year when we don’t play particularly well, don’t shoot particularly well. But when it comes to being at the end of the game, we always seem to find a way to kick it into the gear we need and find a way to win the game. We didn’t even do that today.”
6. Nothing Towns said there was incorrect. The Wolves just flat out didn’t get it done on Sunday. There wasn’t much from anyone that was done positively that can be taken from this game. But it’s not a game that the Wolves can afford to forget about, either, because games like this one keep happening.
7. “Very disappointing. You don’t want to say — in the NBA, you have to play every game, and you don’t want to say it’s games you should win, but we’re getting guys back, I felt good going into this afternoon,” head coach Ryan Saunders said. “[Memphis] played really hard, they executed, they were good. We lacked energy, big time.”
8. On Sunday, Wiggins was average, Towns didn’t play well, Robert Covington had a relatively quiet 13 points, Jeff Teague had a forgettable night. The two positives that could be taken away from Sunday were Keita Bates-Diop and Jarrett Culver (more on them later), but after that, it’s a real search to find good things.
9. But for some reason that cannot be figured out, the Wolves are a much different team on the road. Thus far they’re 7-2 away from Target Center, which is the second-best away record in the NBA, behind only the NBA-best Los Angeles Lakers.
10. Part of the reason the Grizzlies were able to get the win on Sunday was the 3-point shot. So often in previous years the Wolves have lost the math battle because they just refused to believe that shooting 3-pointers were smart. Now, that’s far from the issue as they launch the fourth-most threes per game in the NBA. The issue at hand these days is defending the three.
11. The league median for team 3-point shooting percentage this season so far is 35.5%, teams shoot far better than that when the Wolves are defending them. In 13 of their 19 games so far this season, Wolves’ opponents have shot 35.7% or better from deep. On Sunday, Memphis nailed 40% of its 3-pointers. To say that’s been a common theme would be fair.
12. The Wolves have actually done a solid job to date of deterring their opponents from taking threes at a high volume. After Sunday, opponents shoot 32.1 3-pointers per game against Minnesota, which is tied for seventh-fewest in the NBA. The problem is that the 3-pointers they’re giving up are good ones. Opponents are making 36.9% of their threes against the Wolves, which ranks 21st in the NBA. Of the nine teams that are worse than the Wolves in that category, only the Milwaukee Bucks are above .500.
13. “I’ve gotta see on the film,” Saunders said. “In real time I thought they had a number of open looks and I thought a lot of those were off broken plays, offensive rebounds, miscommunications. Things that we can control, which is one of the reasons I’m disappointed.”
14. That area of the defense is one that should be of high priority moving forward for the Wolves to fix.
15. Like I said above, it wasn’t ALL bad on Sunday, just most of it. Both Bates-Diop and Culver played well for the Wolves and it deserves mention.
16. Culver may have had his most complete game on Sunday afternoon as he finished with 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting and seven rebounds. He’s still nowhere near his ceiling, but things are starting to come together for him and he’s been finding a bit more of a comfort on the floor.
17. As for Bates-Diop, he continues to show that he’s an NBA player and not a G-Leaguer. In Jake Layman’s absence Bates-Diop has been a major bright spot off the bench for the Wolves. Over his last four games including Sunday, he’s averaging 15.2 points per game off the bench and has played over 23 minutes in all four games.
18. When Layman comes back from his toe injury, the question of what to do with Bates-Diop will certainly arise, but it’s clear that he belongs in the NBA rotation.
19. Memphis guard Tyus Jones made his return to Target Center for the first time after spending the first four seasons of his NBA career wearing a Wolves uniform. Jones played 25 minutes, scoring 12 points and dishing out seven assists en route to the win for Memphis.
20. During the game’s first media timeout, the Wolves honored Jones with a tribute video showing some highlights of him in Minnesota as well as some of the things he’s done for the local community.
— Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) December 1, 2019
22. “It was awesome, it was awesome. I tried to stay in the game as much as I could, but I appreciate the organization for making that happen. They didn’t have to do it, so that’s a nice gesture for them to acknowledge me, so I appreciate that,” Jones said after the game. “I appreciate the warm welcome that the fans gave me. I’ve always appreciated the support the support I’ve received from everyone in Minnesota, coming up through high school, even when I went off to college at Duke, and obviously being back here for my first four years in the league, it’s been nothing but love from the fans, and we always support ours, and that’s something that makes Minnesota special. It was special again tonight for me to continue to see that love.”
23. The Wolves have two off days before traveling to Dallas to take on Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. Talk to you soon.