The Timberwolves’ five-game winning streak came to a halt at the hands of a bad Magic team in Orlando on Tuesday night.
Those are the only two players that have been able to single-handedly slay the monster that has been the Minnesota Timberwolves over the past few weeks. In Brooklyn back on Jan. 3, the Wolves lost a grind-it-out affair against a now-16-28 Nets squad that is 13th in the Eastern Conference. Spencer Dinwiddie dropped 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting and hit a pair of tough shots late, including the game-winner.
On Tuesday night in Orlando, the Wolves lost a (literal) fist-fight to a now-13-31 Magic team that has now moved from last-place in the East to 14th. Evan Fournier put up a career-high 32 points on 12-of-22 shooting, including 6-of-12 from beyond the arc.
Both teams started off sluggish, and the first quarter ended in a tie. After double technical foul calls on Orlando’s Arron Afflalo and Nemanja Bjelica for jawing after Bjelly walled up and stopped Afflalo at the rim, they got into on the other end of the floor in the second frame.
Bjelica ran hard into the paint to crash the offensive glass, but Afflalo threw an elbow up near Bjelica’s throat before grabbing his jersey with his left hand and taking a full and complete swing at Bjelly’s face. Thankfully, Bjelica ducked the sucker-punch attempt and proceeded to put Afflalo in a head-lock. The two teams came together and hte players were separated with Afflalo still acting tough and Bjelly simply walking away. (Video of the incident is below.)
Unfortunately, both players were called for their second technicals of the night and ejected. Not exactly fair given the circumstances — surely, Afflalo will be fined and suspended and Bjelica shouldn’t receive anything more than a small fine — but understandable why the officials had to send both players to the showers.
The Magic used the scuffle to encourage themselves to continue in being the aggressors on this night. The home team ultimately came away with 15 offensive rebounds (11 of them came in the first half) and they launched 31 3-point attempts, compared to the Wolves’ 16.
The Wolves built a seven-point lead in the third quarter but promptly gave it back. The Bjelica-less bench struggled, and Orlando found confidence in being in this dog fight late into the fourth quarter.
The Magic were able to more or less pull away, building a lead that reached nine point sin the final minutes of the game. Minnesota was simply unable to find an offensive rhythm, and there were certainly similarities to the loss in Brooklyn nearly exactly two weeks prior, including lots of missed shots that would usually drop that simply rimmed out.
Between the Bjelica ejection, the career night from Evan Fournier, and the bad luck of some missed shots — not to mention a probable hangover of sorts coming off of a lengthy and successful homestand — and this loss is, well, just one of ‘those losses’.
It happens to the best of teams. Now, they must bounce back in Houston against a fantastic Rockets team in just 48 hours.
Tweets of the Night
- There really isn’t a better word to describe the offense for the Wolves on this night other than “sluggish”. The shooting was somewhat unlucky, as mentioned, but there was a real lack of urgency on the glass and a sloppiness in transition.
- Despite recording 10 steals, the defense was extremely slow to rotate out to wide-open 3-point shooters, and there were too many easy offensive boards from the Magic, especially early in the game.
- Not having Bjelica in the second half hurt quite a bit. He played well early, and was obviously very physical on this night. Having his size to combat the Magic wings draining threes from the perimeter would have been extremely helpful.
- Jeff Teague started the game on fire but ended up with just 13 points on 17 shot attempts while D.J. Augustin came off the Magic bench and scored 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting with six rebounds and six assists.
Player of the Game
D.J. Augustin: 18 points (6-9 FG, 2-3 3P, 4-5 FT), 6 rebounds, 6 assists, one turnover
While Fournier scored 32 points, he didn’t do much other than launch 3-pointers, albeit with a lot of success. But Augustin controlled the game for the 24 minutes he was on the court. Tyus Jones was ineffective when he was in the game and Teague was inefficient. Augustin kept the Wolves off-balance on the other end of the court and kept his squad in the game.
Notable Box Score Lines
- Jimmy Butler: 28 points (11-22 FG, 2-5 3P, 4-4 FT), 7 rebounds, 5 steals, 4 assists, 2 blocks, zero turnovers
- Karl-Anthony Towns: 15 points (6-13 FG, 1-1 3P, 2-2 FT), 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, one assist, one turnover
- Taj Gibson: 18 points (9-16 FG), 7 rebounds, 3 steals,one block, one turnover
- Jeff Teague: 13 points (6-17 FG, 1-3 3P), 6 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 turnovers
- Andrew Wiggins: 9 points (4-12 FG, 0-2 3P, 1-2 FT), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, one block, zero turnovers
Butler didn’t shoot the ball much until the Wolves needed buckets late in the game. Towns was active early but quiet late, while Gibson drained everything early on but saw a number of shots run-out after the Magic kept leaving him open to double-team Towns close off drives from the Wolves’ guards.
As mentioned, Teague was great early in the game but struggled late. Wiggins was awful shooting the ball but had a nice game from a decision-making perspective and logged a couple of timely assists.
The Timberwolves go from facing the lowly Magic on Tuesday to the No. 2 team in the West in the Rockets on Thursday night in Houston. The game will tip-off at 8:30 p.m. and will be broadcast nationally on TNT.