The Minnesota Timberwolves came into Sunday’s early game riding a three-game winning streak, their best of the season. The defense had been playing well, the team had found great chemistry and the bench had been playing some of its best ball of the season. That was not the case Sunday.
The game started tightly contested between the two ball clubs, but the energy was low and unfocused for the T-Wolves. Small forward Andrew Wiggins started the game pretty well and for the most part continued that throughout the 48-minute contest. He missed a couple timely jump shots here and there and at no point did he take over the game, but he stayed aggressive, played consistently, hit a three and got a couple easy ones down low.
The bench regressed back to its old ways and was only allowed six minutes of play in the first half. The second unit was -10 or worse in that time, except shooting guard Brandon Rush whose paramount play of late wasn’t enough to earn him quality playing time with starter Zach Lavine back in the lineup.
LaVine returned from a two-game absence due to a bruised hip. He was back, but not at full tilt yet, as he was relatively passive in Sunday’s game.
In the first 24 minutes, the Wolves shot only five free throws versus the Mavericks 15 free throws. The Mavericks quickly got out to a 15 point lead in the second quarter and rarely looked back.
Power forward Gorgui Dieng shook off his poor shooting from the last game and contributed for the Wolves throughout the game. The Wolves even looked like they were mounting a comeback as they cut Dallas’ lead down to just six points near the end of the half. Then, Mavs shooting guard Wesley Matthews hit a three at the buzzer as the Wolves slumped back to the locker room down by nine points.
In the second half, Dallas and Minnesota traded buckets early. At one point the starters had whittled the deficit down to three points late in the third quarter, but Dallas stayed hot and stubborn. As the T’Wolves bench returned, Dallas took advantage and ballooned their lead back up to 15.
-Dieng was a bright spot in this game. After shooting 1-for-10 in Fridays win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, Dieng shot 10-for-12 and ended the evening with a team-high 21 points and eight rebounds.
-Towns had a fairly quiet night as Dallas double-teamed him aggressively throughout the game. He contributed his part with 18 points, nine rebounds, and three assists, but his impact in the game was muted by the Mavs defensive effort.
-Wiggins played well and ended the game with 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists. He had a couple of turnovers when used as the primary ball handler, which has become a troublesome problem for him lately.
-Dallas was hot from distance. Mathews brought a team-high 19 points and seven rebounds with 4-for-8 shooting from three. Point guard Deron Williams poured in three triples and 10 assists.
Overall, the Mavs played well as a steady veteran team with something to prove. Things aren’t going to get much easier after this as the Timberwolves continue their road trip this Tuesday, Jan. 17, against the San Antonio Spurs.
Follow Ben Huth on Twitter: @fortheidiots.