Timberwolves Wrap: A tough loss against division rivals

Nov 3, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) jumps up to attempt blocking a shot from Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) in the second half at Target Center. The Nuggets won 102-99. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 3, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) jumps up to attempt blocking a shot from Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) in the second half at Target Center. The Nuggets won 102-99. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

After starting the season with a two-game road losing streak, the Timberwolves bounced back with a blowout win against the Grizzlies on Tuesday before losing to the Nuggets on Thursday night.

The versatile roster of the Timberwolves’ Northwest Division rival Denver Nuggets proved too much for the Wolves, as the 102-99 loss saw them fall to a 1-3 record on the season.

First half

The Wolves had a yet another great start to a game, especially on the offensive end, scoring an impressive 37 points in the first quarter and outscoring the Nuggets by 12 after the first period. In fact, the Andrew WigginsKarl-Anthony Towns‘ duo, with 14 points apiece, outscored Denver’s entire team in the quarter, 28-25.

The start of the second quarter was a completely different story, however. The Wolves’ second unit basically blew the whole lead, as the Nuggets’ reserves went on a 13-3 run and closed the gap to a single possession.

Once their starters returned to the floor, the Wolves managed to increase the lead once again to as many as 10 points. However, the Nuggets continued to hang around and the teams went into the halftime with Minnesota holding on to a rather fragile six-point lead.

The first half marked a spectacular Timberwolves’ performance from beyond the arc, led by Zach LaVine, Towns, and Wiggins, Minnesota made seven of their first eight three-point attempts.

The biggest negative of the first half was, of course, the bench scoring. While Denver’s reserves accounted for nearly half (27-of-55) team points, the Wolves bench only scratched up a pretty disappointing total of five.

Second half

Danilo Gallinari with a four-point-play, Nikola Jokic with a tough layup, several more easy buckets, and by midway through the third the Nuggets took their first lead since the game was 2-0. But Minnesota’s third quarter problems were just starting to unfold there.

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At the five-minute mark Gorgui Dieng committed a flagrant foul against Jusuf Nurkic, which helped Nuggets gain an eight-point lead. Denver continued building upon that, ultimately finishing the quarter with a 13-point advantage.

The Timberwolves yet again suffered from their major setback so far – the third quarter syndrome. Having started the game by shooting 7-of-8 from three, they did not connect on a single such shot out of seven attempts in the third. Minnesota was completely destroyed in the quarter, 33-14. With their main engines in Towns, Wiggins and LaVine not being able to efficiently carry the whole offensive load for the third consecutive quarter and the bench remaining cold, the outcome really wasn’t a surprise, and the Nuggets led 88-75 after three.

The second unit finally managed to get a breakthrough in the final period. Led by Nemanja Bjelica, who looked like his old self from when he was playing in Europe, the reserves initiated the spurt that closed the gap to two points at 99-97.

Emmanuel Mudiay then drove under the basket getting an and-one against Towns, which was answered on the other end by an easy layup from Wiggins, bringing the score to 102-99.

These were the last points scored, though. Mudiay missed an open three, but Wolves weren’t able to take advantage of it.

With around 30 seconds left on the clock, Jameer Nelson, who was having a spectacular game until the last minute of the match, held on to the ball for way too long, causing a 24-second violation.

This once again opened the door for Minnesota, who had 4.1 seconds to send the game to overtime. Fourth-quarter hero Bjelica took the last shot on an inbounds pass from Zach LaVine and a fake hand-off, but it rimmed out after seemingly going halfway down.

Related Story: Timberwolves Wrap: Big Win In Home Opener



Towns, Wiggins & LaVine. The trio combined for 71 points (72 percent of the team’s points) and 22 rebounds — half of the whole team’s numbers.

Having started off with a hurricane in the first quarter and continuing a similar approach in the second, however, the leaders seemed a bit out of breath in the second half. However, each of them still had great individual games (particularly Towns). If they just received more help from others, Timberwolves would actually become that formidable force, everyone’s so eagerly waiting for.

Bjelica’s Fourth Quarter. The Serbian came alive in the beginning of the last period, scoring 10 points in that span, including two three-pointers — the only ones made by the Wolves in the second half.

He did hesitate on an open shot in the final minutes, a shot which would have tied the game at 99, and he wasn’t lucky on that last shot at the buzzer either. However, Bjelica provided that crucial spark, which inspired the team to get back into the game. The Wolves ultimately fell short, but if Bjelica can transfer such fourth quarter form to upcoming games, it would give a huge and vital boost to the universality of team’s offense.


Third Quarter and Inconsistency. Once again, the Timberwolves built a big lead, gave it all back, but faltered big-time in the third quarter.

A lot of the shift in the quality of playing can be attributed to a complete turnaround of three-point shooting efficiency. However, when the shots aren’t falling in anymore, you have to find other ways to score. They seemed to have expected to continue making baskets from outside and when that didn’t happen in the third, there was obvious frustration from everyone in a Wolves unifom. And if that weren’t enough, these emotions transferred to defense and let Denver build a sizeable lead.

Nov 3, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 3, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

Bench scoring. 45-23. That’s the numbers of points scored by each team’s reserves, and if it wasn’t for Bjelica’s heroics in the fourth, these could look even more embarrassing. The Timberwolves have to find depth in their substitutes — as good as Wiggins, Towns or LaVine may be, they cannot drag the Wolves to the playoffs completely by themselves. The Western Conference is just too tight and too competitive for that to happen.

Overall, the Wolves shouldn’t be too disappointed with this loss, though. Nuggets are a solid team, and while they may not have a superstar, they are showing that team basketball, smart rotations, and a long bench can do wonders in the NBA. They most definitely will be in the competition for those invaluable last playoff spots and in two or three more years can make a really deep playoff run.

There will be three more encounters between the teams this season and Wolves will have their chances to bounce back. Now it is important to get back up and get the crucial first win on the road in Oklahoma on Saturday evening.

Star of the Night 

Karl-Anthony Towns: 32 points (11-19 FG, 2-4 3P, 8-10 FT), 14 rebounds, two assists, two blocks

Towns was undoubtedly the best player on the floor before halfitme. His 22 points in the first two quarters started to appear like deja vu for the Nuggets from their opening night against Anthony Davis and the Pelicans.

Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, the final outcome was also the same — while the Nuggets couldn’t handle the opposing team’s star player, yet managed to win the game.

On the plus side, it was great to see Towns play so efficiently. He smashed his season-best midway through the game and seemed to have been capable of anything on the court. That’s what all the fans have been waiting for and that’s precisely why Towns is being called one of the most talented big men in the league.

Notable Timberwolves Lines

  • Karl-Anthony Towns: 32 points (11-19 FG, 8-10 FT), 14 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks
  • Andrew Wiggins: 25 points (9-18 FG, 2-3 3P, 5-5 FT), 3 rebounds, one assist
  • Nemanja Bjelica: 14 points (5-13 FG, 2-5 3P, 2-2 FT), 8 rebounds
  • Zach LaVine: 14 points (4-13 FG, 2-6 3P, 1-2 FT), 5 rebounds, 3 assists

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Who’s Next?

The Wolves will travel to Oklahoma City and take on the Thunder on Saturday. The Thunder started off surprisingly well having won their first games before falling at Golden State on Thursday night, and if the Timberwolves are thinking about making the playoffs this year, this will be a yet another crucial Northwestern division clash early in the season.