March 13, 2018 | Capital One Arena | Washington, D.C.
Coming into Tuesday’s game, the Minnesota Timberwolves were just 13-21 on the road and had not gotten a win away from home against the Eastern Conference in 2018 despite seven attempts. The Washington Wizards were the victims of a blown fourth quarter lead to allow the Timberwolves to flip the script. Minnesota went on a 14-0 run and 24-6 overall to turn a 10-point deficit into an eight-point advantage that Washington could not recover from. With 11 seconds left, the Wizards had a chance to tie the game with a three-pointer, but Bradley Beal committed his game-high fourth turnover that some felt could have been a foul on Karl-Anthony Towns.
“What I saw was different from what the referees saw,” head coach Scott Brooks shared. “The guy had two hands on him, pushed him out. I don’t know, that’s what I saw. Brad’s just not gonna throw up a pass off of his heels like that.”
“He just pushed me out of bounds,” Beal explained. “It’s kind of a crazy pass for me to make just standing alone, but he was forcing me out so I had get rid of it. It ended up being a bad turnover, so that’s how it was.”
(Photo: Ned Dishman via Getty Images)
Another Poor Defensive Showing
In the previous three games, the Wizards have given up ridiculous amounts of points in the paint to their opponents: 60 vs. Miami, 60 at New Orleans, and 76 at Miami. The previous season-worst was 60 at Oklahoma City on January 25. Even with the point of emphasis from Brooks headed into the matchup with the Timberwolves, the Wizards gave up 64 points in the painted area on 32-of-47 shooting. Too often, Washington allows the player with the ball to fly by the primary defender and the rotation is either too late or beat by the extra pass in surrendering of the easy basket. To make matters worse, the Wizards allowed Nemanja Bjelica, who began the game 2-of-11 for just four points, to score 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting in the fourth quarter.
“We got to get stops, and we got to stop worrying about scoring,” Brooks mandated in a flashback to earlier in the season. “We’re getting beat on backdoors, we’re getting beat off the dribble. If you do that, you can’t expect your bigs to protect you every time. You got to guard, you got to guard the ball. You can’t keep saying the same things every game. It’s been four games now, and we’ve given up over 60 points in the paint. It’s a personal pride. I got to find the guys that are going to do it.”
“They hurt us a bit, we need to do a better job of resisting,” Beal said. “Whether it’s on post-ups, on offensive rebounds and drives to the lane. We give up way too many of those and I think the last couple of game it’s been that way. So, we need to do a better job of defending the paint and forcing them to make tough contested shots.”
Karl-Anthony Towns Goes Off With Help
The third-year player is showing his worth as the former No. 1 overall pick. Playing without All-Star Jimmy Butler, Towns has picked up the slack and did so in a big way against Washington. In 41 minutes, which included getting five teeth chipped by a Tomas Satoransky shoulder late in the first half, Towns finished with a season-high 37 points on 13-of-17 shooting including draining all three of his three-pointers including a dagger in Ian Mahinmi’s face with 29 seconds to play. The Wizards had zero answers to the KAT exam and it cost them the game.
“Inside, out,” Markieff Morris said about what makes Towns such a difficult cover. “He’s strong enough to play against a five man and quick enough to drive and shoot threes. He had a really good game tonight. We couldn’t control him. He kept them in it.”
Markieff Morris Catches Fire Early, Not Used Late
Although Morris finished with a season-high 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting, his most points since April 8, 2016, he could care less. “Nothing really, we lost,” Morris responded when asked what went well for him. “It really don’t matter.” Maybe one of the reasons why Washington could not pull out the victory is their lack of plays called for the power forward in the fourth quarter.
Through three quarters, Morris had already tied his season high with 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. He was absolutely feeling it with 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting in less than nine minutes of play in the third quarter. In just eight minutes of play in the fourth quarter, he only had two shot attempts, a make and a miss. On the other hand, Beal took seven shots in the final quarter, some of which may have been better off leaving the fingertips of Morris.
Otto Porter Jr. Regresses To The Mean
Since the All-Star break, the max money wing has looked worthy of his big contract as he was averaging 18.2 points and 6.9 rebounds, while shooting 57 percent from the field and 53.5 percent from beyond the arc in 10 games. On Tuesday, he came back to reality. Porter finished with just eight points, not recording double-digit scoring for the first time since January 22 in Dallas, on 4-of-14 shooting including missing all three of his shots from deep. Maybe it was just an off night, but Porter was routinely missing shots that he has been making all season, namely five of his six midrange jumpers.
Mutual Respect Between Coaches
Before the game, Scott Brooks and Tom Thibodeau had a lot to say about one another. The two have crossed paths early in each other’s careers, namely when the latter was an assistant coach in Minnesota and New York where he had the former as a player. The two first crossed paths in 1987, while working as an assistant at Harvard, when Thibodeau befriended Bill Musselman who was coaching the Albany Patroons of the CBA where Brooks began his playing career. Brooks was named to the CBA’s all-rookie team in 1988 and was a member of Albany’s CBA Championship team that same season.
“He was fun. He wanted to get into coaching,” Brooks remembered of Thibodeau. “You knew that he was going to get there just cause when you have the passion for the game he has, the work ethic, you’re going to make your breaks and he did. He’s worked very hard to get where he is. He’s been an assistant for a lot of years before he got his shot in Chicago and it’s great that they’re having success because he works at it and he wants his players to get better and I was fortunate enough to be with him. … All he did was them curls in the weight room. Curls and bench press, never worked on his legs.”
“Just so I can kick him around a little bit,” Thibodeau joked about Brooks’ quip about his workout regimen of only working out his upper body. “Scott was terrific. He’s really proud of all of the stuff that he’s accomplished just because of, he did it the hard way. He worked his way into the league and his work ethic and his fight. He had a great playing career. People don’t understand, to make it at his size, the way he did for as long as he did, that was not only his talent, but it was his fight. That’s what made him so good. I remember, I was there the first year and I watched him in the CBA, it really stood out and of course in Minnesota the first year, but then when we had him in the end of his career, he was still practicing the same way. He practiced like everything, like his life depended on it, every day. His coaching career, he’s done great things. Whatever he does, he’ll be a success because of who he is, but he’s not only a great coach, he’s a great person.”
Next Game: Washington will travel to Boston late on Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning for the third matchup of the season for the second leg of their back-to-back.