The opening salvo of last night’s season debut by the young Wolves encapsulated every reason fans have to be excited for this team. The first two minutes saw two quick free throws from Wiggins, a LaVine steal and dish to a silky KAT jumper, then a KAT three, punctuated by a jam from Wiggins off a beautiful feed by Rubio.
Wiggins even had a block and three rebounds early on. Truly everything was coming up roses. But the Grizzlies overcame slow starts from Marcy Marc Gasol and Mike Conley (the NBA’s highest-paid player) thanks to a strong effort off the bench from KAT-cousin Wade Baldwin (7 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks) and Z-Bo (19 points and 11 boards), who terrorized the Wolves from every spot on the offensive end, even draining a three of his own. After half, the Wolves clung to a 59-50 lead.
The second half opened up with LaVine rising up for a jam, but it was a false start. The Grizzlies, though no longer the Grit & Grinders from years passed, straight up locked down the Wolves starters for the rest of the quarter. The second T-Wolves field goal of the half didn’t come until the seven minute mark, when Wiggins buried a jumper. The Wolves scored 16 points in the quarter and never recovered.
Though it was close throughout, two clutch buckets from Gasol and Conley in the final 30 seconds, plus a Rubio-Wiggins turnover (they were both responsible), sealed this one. There’s consolation to be found sometimes in a well-fought game lost to a seasoned opponent, but this sure did feel like one that the Wolves should’ve won.
Bits and Pieces:
- Kris Dunn absolutely rocked his NBA debut. Eight points, four boards, one steal, one assist and only one turnover. He hounded Mike Conley of defense and was a great source of energy for a team that badly needed a shot of adrenaline to the heart for most of the game. Easily his best game since Summer League. His first points as a pro came off a pretty baseline cut and jam, and he finished the game with the highest TS% on the team.
- Andrew Wiggins seemed lost for most of the first half. The team was having trouble getting him the ball, and he was having trouble doing much with it when he got it. It was encouraging to see him stay locked in on defense and really getting after the boards, buying himself time until he found his touch in the second half. He finished with seven boards (second only to Gorgui’s 14) to go with his 25 points, and finished 10-14 from the free throw line. He really does have a little Harden in his ability to get to the line.
- Zach LaVine didn’t exactly set the world on fire his first game of the season. Though he finished with 19 points and five rebounds, he wasn’t as aggressive getting to the rim as we saw at the end of last season. Six of his 14 FGA were three pointers, though he made four of his five free throws and absolutely splashed an insanely-difficult off-balance clutch three with 16.6 seconds left to narrow the gap to two.
- Dieng had a nice little double-double (12 points, 14 rebounds), but struggled with the size of Memphis’ bruisers. Who wouldn’t?
- KAT had a merely mortal game, which of course is disappointing. He also got his shit viciously swatted by JayMichael Green on one (terrible) shot attempt late in the game, which happened to be the best possible result since the shot had no chance of going in. Several uncharacteristic bad decisions on the offensive end for the young stud.
- Around the league: We had some crazy statlines in the first two days of the new season: 39 points from Damian Lillard, a LeBron triple-double, 50/16/7/5/4 for Anthony Davis, 40 for DeRozan, 32/12/9 for Russ, 34/17/8 for Harden, 30/16/4 for Myles Turner. It’s gonna be a great season!
Here’s one last video to see you through until the Wolves play again on Saturday in Sacramento: