Wolves Wrap: Thunder run wild on young Wolves


The Minnesota Timberwolves’ young roster got their first taste of another NBA team. Unfortunately for them, it happened to be against the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that looks primed to make a deep playoff run this season.

Minnesota showed the recent news of Zach LaVine‘s spot in the starting lineup to be true by sending out guards Tyus Jones and LaVine, forwards Andrew Wiggins and Kevin Garnett, and center Karl-Anthony Towns for their starting lineup. The Thunder started the game with guards Russell Westbrook and Andre Robertson, forwards Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka, and center Enes Kanter.

Oct 7, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward

Nemanja Bjelica

(88) goes up for a layup in the second half against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Target Center. Oklahoma City Thunder won 122-99. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Wolves and Thunder traded buckets for the first few minutes with Karl-Anthony Towns showcasing his mid-range game. Towns, who finished with 18 points, 5 rebounds, and a couple of blocks, knocked down three jumpers and connected on a hook shot all in the first 5 minutes, causing the sparse Target Center crowd to cheer as he exited the game later in the quarter.

However, because of the Wolves dreadful transition defense and the terrific play of Thunder forward Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City soon pulled away to a comfortable 42-28 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Wolves second unit was directed by a confident Nemanja Bjelica, an inefficient Shabazz Muhammad who plagued the Wolves with 2-10 shooting, and an awkward but productive Gorgui Dieng who ended the game with 18 points. They were able to cut into the lead before halftime, but the positive momentum would cease to exist.

The Thunder finished off the Wolves in the second half and wound up winning by 20+ points in a 122-99 victory.

Minnesota looked sloppy overall: fumbling rebounds, forgetting to box out, and throwing inerrant passes. The offense was also obviously still in the works, as Sam Mitchell‘s voice could be heard throughout the Target Center shouting corrections to the team as they stumbled through a few of their offensive sets.  However, the Wolves had a few terrific defensive and offensive possessions that were encouraging.

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One of these such possessions occurred in the fourth quarter.

Nemanja Bjelica drove through the perimeter defense and then fired a pass through the hands of a few defenders to LaVine underneath the basket. LaVine took a tough, contested shot and missed off the front rim, but Bjelica was there to grab the offensive board and lay it in.

Minnesota followed up this possession with stingy defense leading to a quick outlet to the Euroleague MVP for a fast break. Bjelica pushed the ball up the floor, drove towards the hoop, and then fired a bullet pass across the court to Damjan Rudez in the corner who nailed the three. Quite the sequence.

Despite the defeat, it was an encouraging effort from the young Wolves, who for stretches of the game battled head to head with one of the best teams in the Western Conference.

Star of the Night

Serge Ibaka: 18 points (8-12 FG, 2-3 3PT), 6 rebounds, 1 humungous block on Zach LaVine

Although Ibaka is usually overshadowed by the two superstars ahead of him on his team, the forward played well in the team’s first pre-season game of the year.  He was an intimidating presence defensively, especially for LaVine, and his ability to stretch the floor and knock down jumpers even out to the three point line paid dividends for Oklahoma City.

Tweet of the Night

Despite a rough game for Shabazz Muhammad offensively, it is encouraging and impressive to see his work ethic on display after the game.

It’d be easy to call it a night, especially when players are still getting back into shape at this point in the year, but Shabazz has shown a great desire to get better during the off-season so far in his career.  Let’s hope it pays off in the near future.

Notable Lines

  • Karl-Anthony Towns: 18 points (8-12 FG, 2-2 FT), 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks
  • Gorgui Dieng: 18 points (6-8 FG, 6-6 FT), 4 rebounds, 3 assists
  • Nemanja Bjelica: 11 points (4-5 FG, 1-1 3PT, 2-2 FT), 5 rebounds, 1 steal

Who’s Got Next?

The Wolves will continue their pre-season schedule on Saturday as they face the Chicago Bulls.  This should be another challenging test for this young team as they prepare for the start of the 2015-2016 regular season. Let’s hope the Wolves can get a ‘W’ this time around!

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