Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukkah homies! While you were reading this sentence, Russell Westbrook just successfully threw another alley-oop to Steven Adams. Westbrook spent the entire game showing exactly how much distance there is between up-and-coming star and bonafide superstar. Towns and Wiggins did just enough to keep the contest within spitting distance, but the Wolves just couldn’t string together enough possessions to mount any sort of comeback.
This game started out ugly, with multiple turnovers (including two separate instances of Zach LaVine stepping on the sideline) and the two teams missing their first five combined shots before Wiggins started the action off with a pretty turnaround jumper. Towns and Adams showed each other their baby-hooks early on and proceeded to battle all night long. Towards the end of the first, Thibs ran out a Dunn-Wiggins-‘Bazz-‘Bjelly-Jordan Hill unit that made some good things happen, though the idea of Jordan Hill playing 18 minutes in an NBA in 2016 is very disturbing to me.
The second quarter involved KAT hoisting the team onto his broad, feline shoulders and jab-stepping and ball-faking his way to buckets every time the offense began to stagnate. Dieng was able to hit a couple mid-range shots, which really opened things up inside for the young cutters, and it was nice to hear a national broadcaster casually refer to Dieng as one of the best mid-range shooters in the game. And yet the big man heroics weren’t enough to keep the Thunder from outscoring the Wolves 34-26 in the quarter to go into half with a four point lead.
I wouldn’t call the third quarter of this game a classic #Turd Third, though it’s clearly when the game slipped away for good. The Wolves put up a good fight, with Wiggins battling for rebounds, a beautiful Wiggins feed to a rolling Towns (a play that has to be incorporated way more often), and bizarrely, more second half minutes for Jordan Hill. The problem lay in the fact that they were playing a flubber-footed cyborg that wouldn’t rest until every single one of his teammates had jammed on one of the Wolves’ young stars. The fourth quarter had the Wolves trading buckets back and forth throughout, but never establishing enough of a rhythm to put any real pressure on OKC. The game was lost long before the final buzzers sounded.
Bobbles and Bubbles
Westbrook ended with 31 (11-15, 8-9 FT), 15 with seven rebounds for his fifth game of 30+ and 15+ on the season. He dapped up a little bro sitting courtside and caught more people napping than a high school detention monitor.
Kanter absolutely pulverized the Wolves big man rotation, which would beg the question where was Cole Aldrich today? A couple garbage time buckets from Shabazz are the only reason why Kanter didn’t outscore the entire Wolves bench.
Who the hell is Alex Abrines (10 points, 3-7 from three) and why do his sideburns cover half of his face?
As mentioned above, this was another miserable game from the Minnesota bench, Shabazz Muhammad semi-included. I still don’t like Shabazz’s tunnel vision and unpredictable decision-making, but when he starts feeling it, dude can score. That’s more than I can say for anyone else on the Wolves bench of late.
Towns saw his streak of 10 straight double-doubles broken tonight, though he still managed a tidy line of 26 points and eight rebounds, though he posted zero assists after four straight games of three or more, along with just his third game of the season with no blocks (two of the three coming in the last two games).
Wiggins scored decently and defended decently but was overall not nearly as aggressive as the Wolves needed him to be on the offensive end. He was also beaten back door repeatedly, leading to alley-oops fed by Westbrook, and seemed to really get in his own head once he started missing free throws. Snap out of it, Wigs!
Ricky Rubio played good first-half defense and then mediocre second-half defense on Westbrook, but just wasn’t able to get anything going for himself on the other end. He finished with 10 assists and seven rebounds, but only three points on one made field goal. Turns out when you lose the point guard battle by 28 points and five assists it’s really hard to win.
Oh, and as a much-deserved Christmas present, Thibs gave Tyus Jones his first minutes since December ninth. Jones seized the five-minute opportunity and contributed two points, one rebound, one assist, no turnovers or missed shots, and +8 differential, tied for team-high (with Adriean Payne, so do with that what you will).
Remember how we traded a first-round pick for Payne, who has played 96 minutes all season? OK cool.
Basically, the moral is, this wasn’t the statement game many Wolves fans were hoping it would be, or if it was, it definitely wasn’t the statement Wolves fans were hoping would be made. This loss drops the Wolves to 9-21 on the season, tied with Dallas and Phoenix for third-worst in the league.
So let’s put this loss behind us, enjoy what more holiday time we have with our families and collectively give one giant scream into our pillows. Then we have to regroup, because the reeling Hawks are up tomorrow and feels ripe for a little expel-the-demons type game.