The Minnesota Timberwolves opened the season with a 102-98 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. After finally seeing the first real NBA action of the new-look Wolves, Andrew Wiggins, Zach Lavine and Karl-Anthony Towns made a mix of first impressions.
In an 82 game season, there is no reason to worry about a close loss for the Minnesota Timberwolves. For the big three, there were plenty of reasons to keep the hope alive, but still areas of improvement as well.
Andrew Wiggins: good and bad moments
Andrew Wiggins led the game in scoring with 25 points, shooting 50 percent. His game looked very reminiscent of the rest of his career. He backed opponents down in one-on-one match ups, and pulled up for jumpers. On more than one occasion, Wiggins wasn’t looking to pass or drive. That fact is acceptable, depending on the game plan, but there were other aspects to his game that he clearly improved and some that he did not.
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Wiggins showed excellent judgement when defenders gave him space. Confidently pulling up on several occasions, his mid range shot looked sharp and improved. At times, however, everything leading up to the shot left something to be desired.
His ball handling still appears sloppy, and he doesn’t look to be scanning the floor for a better option often. Wiggins finished the game with zero assists which can be concerning considering the fact that he has a low career average of just two per game. Wiggins also missed two free throws in clutch time–they would end up being a huge difference in the game.
Still, Wiggins does appear much improved and highly motivated. He hustled for seven rebounds and forced two turnovers. His offense looks to be moving in the right direction while his defense looks much more focused.
From 7:47 in the second quarter to 4:03 in the fourth, Karl-Anthony Towns did not score once. This came after he caught fire early with 16 points in the first 16 minutes of the game.
During that 28 minute drought, the Minnesota Timberwolves went from a 10 point lead to a one point deficit. The value of Towns’ offensive production trumps everything else in Minnesota’s offense.
Towns deserves some of the blame here. In the first 16 minutes, he had 16 points. In the last 32 minutes, he only had five. Several factors, including Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol’s paint presence hurt Towns’ production, but that doesn’t excuse him from missing open jumpers or making bad decisions. Towns also only came down with four rebounds which goes to show how physically Memphis was playing down low.
Despite that 28 minute chunk, Towns looked like Towns. He hit a couple threes, dished five pretty assists and out-manned Marc Gasol down low a couple times. If Towns can get back to separating more on his rolls, he will look even more monstrous. Towns will likely not continue this pattern of going scoreless for large stretches. Therefore, this game is of little concern.
It’s hard to say that a 19-point game with five rebounds and three assists is disappointing, but it still feels like Zach Lavine needs more time on the court.
Zach Lavine made three three-pointers and three shots inside the block. In full-court offense, Zach Lavine thrived as always. In half court offense, Lavine still seemed to get lost in the shuffle. Lavine struggled to make his own offense on and off the ball. His shots often came from off the dribble after testing the driving waters. He didn’t create open shots by penetrating very often, either.
And yet, Lavine still seeps potential. He looks better in every game, and his deep shot has clearly improved. If Zach Lavine can become more dangerous and effective in his half-court game, the big three will cause all sorts of problems for defenses.