In what has unfortunately become a common occurrence, the Timberwolves lost another close game, this time against the Wizards by a final score of 104-98.
The Wolves’ offensive effort was extremely well-balanced, with Ricky Rubio leading the way with 22 points. Zach LaVine added 21, Andrew Wiggins put in a quiet 17, and Karl-Anthony Towns had a solid 14 points and 15 rebounds.
Neither team was able to get separation for much of the night. The Wolves got off to their customary hot start on the back of some good defense and aggressive play from Rubio and LaVine.
They forced the Wizards into seven turnovers in the opening stanza, and although the bench allowed the Wizards to close the gap towards the end, the Wolves still took a 32-29 lead into the second quarter.
New addition Greg Smith made a solid impact in his first stint with the Wolves, scoring four points to go along with a rebound and an assist in six minutes in the first half. Tyus Jones also ran the offense well in his first half minutes, hitting a three to start the second quarter and making some nice passes.
However, the Wolves and Wizards switched places in the second quarter in regards to turnovers. The Wizards only committed one in the frame, while the Wolves had a stretch where they turned the ball over on five of eight possessions. That allowed the Wizards to grab a 60-54 lead at halftime.
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The Wolves were actually keeping up with the Wizards in three-point shooting, hitting four three-pointers to Washington’s five. The Wizards had taken 16 attempts to the Wolves’ 6, however, and considering how good of a three-point shooting team Washington is, that was something to keep track of in the second half.
The Wolves and Wizards battled to a draw for most of the third quarter. Dave Benz and Jim Petersen made a point on the FSN broadcast of how the Wizards liked to run after made baskets, which is unusual in the NBA, but Wall continually found Beal or Marcin Gortat streaking/lumbering down court after a Wolves bucket for some easy transition points.
The Wizards ended the quarter on an 8-0 run to take an 85-77 lead into the fourth, where the they were able to stretch the lead out a bit. The deficit never got too large to overcome though, and the game was still in the balance as the clock ticked under five minutes.
The Wolves played some really nice defense in crunch time. Rubio was doubling all over the floor trying to trap and get steals, and his teammates were rotating and helping better than they have all season. It was a good thing to see on that end, given that the defense has generally been pretty bad with LaVine playing in place of Tayshaun Prince.
For as impressive as the defense was, the offense was just as impressively bad. Although Rubio had 22 points and three assists, he also committed six turnovers, including some really bad ones in the closing minutes.
Rubio was still a +9 on the night, but he made some uncharacteristically head-scratching plays, and that was a big reason why the Wizards were able to keep the lead.
The Wizards came in and played like a team that was fighting for one of the final playoff spots in the East. The Wolves fought admirably, but silly turnovers killed their offense and cost them the game.
Oh, and the final tally of three-pointers was 11 made for the Wizards to five made for the Wolves. I wonder if that six-point differential mattered in this game…
Tweets of the Night
This concisely summarizes Rubio’s night.
This tweet from Zach Lowe had nothing to do with this game, but when I read it I immediately thought of LaVine’s performance tonight. He had some really tough drives where he hung in the air and finished around defenders.
LaVine’s finishing ability was really on display tonight, showing how much he’s improved this year and also showing any casual fans that watched this game (if there were any) that he is rapidly turning into more than just a dunker.
Star of the Night
Bradley Beal – 26 points (10-15 FG, 3-4 3P, 3-5 FT), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals
Beal torched the Wolves tonight. He averaged nearly a point per minute when he was out there, scoring his 26 points in just 29 efficient minutes. Wall was able to consistently find him in both the half court and transition for open dunks and threes.
Beal hasn’t looked much like his usual self this year as he has been hampered by injuries, but this game showcased how great he can be on offense.
Notable Timberwolves Lines
Ricky Rubio – 22 points (6-14 FG, 2-3 3P, 8-9 FT), 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 6 turnovers
Rubio’s counterpart had a decent night as Wall tallied 14 points and 12 assists, but Rubio forced him into 6-18 shooting and five turnovers. Although Rubio’s own turnovers marred his night, his defense in this game against one of the premier point guards in the league shouldn’t be overlooked.
Zach LaVine – 21 points (7-18 FG, 2-5 3P, 5-5 FT), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, one steal
Karl-Anthony Towns – 14 points (5-12 FG, 0-1 3P, 4-4 FT), 15 rebounds, 5 assists, one steal, 2 blocks, 4 turnovers
Although Towns wasn’t heavily involved on offense, he still found a way to make a big impact with those 15 rebounds and five assists. Even on an off-night for him, he still had a fairly impressive game.
Andrew Wiggins – 17 points (6-11 FG, 5-6 FT), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, one steal
On the other end of the spectrum from Towns, Wiggins had a quiet offensive night but didn’t make up for it in other ways. Hopefully he will start getting more active on the boards and on defense.
Who’s Got Next?
The Wolves will head next door to Milwaukee to face the Bucks on Friday night. Milwaukee lost to the Pacers 104-99 on Wednesday and have lost three out of their past four games.
That will be the first night of a back-to-back that also sees the Wolves face Brooklyn at home on Saturday. The travel won’t be bad for that set, so the young Wolves shouldn’t be too tired in that second game. Both games will start at 7:00.