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Last Shots: There are positives and negatives to look at, it’s all about the outlook



MINNEAPOLIS – Twenty-four quick thoughts from Minnesota’s 104-99 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night at Target Center.

1. As Karl-Anthony Towns’ absence from the floor due to a knee injury and an illness continues on, the Wolves have had to turn to others in order to attempt to make up for his production offensively. Wednesday night against Indiana was a night like that. Five different players reached double-figures in scoring, but none of them reached a figure higher than 17 for the night.

2. There are two ways to look at this. It’s an issue that be shown in either a positive or negative light, depending on the outlook du jour.

3. If you want the negative outlook, scroll down, we’ll get to that in a minute.

4. On the bright side, Jarrett Culver was the team’s leading scorer on Wednesday night with the 17-point mark. In each of his last nine games he’s now reached double-figures in scoring. There are still inconsistencies with his shot from the outside, but he’s been overall much better on the offensive end of the floor.

5. “He’s definitely been a bright spot through some of these tough endings for us,” coach Ryan Saunders said on Wednesday night. “His future is bright. The way he’s been getting his looks on the offensive end. I think he’s been aggressive getting to the basket.”

6. Part of the reason for this uptick has been the fact that Culver is getting to the rim at a more frequent rate than he was early in the season, as Saunders alluded to. In his first 30 games of his NBA career, Culver averaged just 4.03 shot attempts inside five feet from the rim per game.

7. For someone that doesn’t shoot a high percentage anywhere other than at the rim, it wasn’t a number that was high enough in terms of attempts. Bombing away from deep wasn’t going to be the answer to his offensive struggles.

8. The change in how often Culver gets to the rim has been pretty drastic, nearly doubling to 7.77 attempts within five feet of the rim over the last nine games. That included 11 of his 13 shots in Wednesday’s 17-point effort.

9. That doesn’t mean that Culver isn’t still a work in progress, even in that area. The frequency is nice, but his shooting percentage of 54.2 in that area can get much better. And part of that would be finishing with his left hand, which is something Culver seems reluctant to do. But for the time being it’s certainly a positive development.

10. For the record, Culver did have a very nice finish with his left hand on Wednesday. But it’s still something that needs to become more of a consistent part of his game.

11.

12. If you’re scrolling down to look for the negative, this is where you stop.

13. Andrew Wiggins has reverted back to being a frustrating cog in the not-so-well-oiled machine that the Wolves offense has become. Wednesday was the third consecutive game in which he struggled to make an impact on the offensive end of the floor.

14. On Saturday night against Houston, Wiggins finished with 11 points on 3-of-13 shooting and mostly floated through the game, minding his own business and not bothering anybody. Monday night against Oklahoma City was no better, as he totaled 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting, again floating through the evening.

15. Wednesday night, Wiggins showed up for the second quarter, going 4-of-5 and scoring nine points in total. In that quarter he played 6:09 of game time. It was his bright spot, and a reason the Wolves went into the half with the lead,

16. In the other three quarters, Wiggins totaled one point in 26:09 of time on the court. His final stat line of 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting with three rebounds and three assists was yet another lackluster effort.

17. “We want him to be aggressive, we’ll continue to stress that, and we want everybody on this team to be aggressive, get in the paint, and try and create,” Saunders said.

18. Wiggins has been anything but aggressive as of late. Whether he’s been put in position to be successful is a different discussion for another time. But regardless of the situation, the same fire that seemed to be lit under Wiggins earlier this season seems to have been extinguished.

19. “Kind of get him going early,” Robert Covington said when asked how to snap Wiggins out of this funk. “He needs to see a couple baskets go in early and he gets that intensity going on both sides of the court. That’s what he was doing very well early on. But we just got to get back to that same intensity and we just got to get going from the very beginning.”

20. What Covington said makes sense in theory, but Wiggins’ strong second quarter before a rudderless second half says otherwise.

21. This screams of the past with Wiggins. Wiggins, who left prior to the media entering the locker room on Wednesday, shows flashes, as he did earlier this year, and then disappears for long stretches, as he seems to be doing right now. Finding out the answer for this is the question that has eluded every coach and teammate Wiggins has ever had at the NBA level.

22. In Wiggins’ last six games played, dating back to Dec. 26, he’s averaging 15.3 points per game on 35.2% shooting and 24.3% shooting from deep. This serious dip in production is a reason why the Wolves offense hasn’t been as good as it could be.

23. Essentially, in the time spans mentioned for each player, Jarrett Culver has been a better basketball player than Andrew Wiggins. And as mentioned before, that can be good or bad depending on your choice of outlooks.

24. The Wolves play the Indiana Pacers again on Friday night before taking on the Toronto Raptors Saturday at Target Center. Talk to you this weekend.





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