The Minnesota Timberwolves had a real opportunity to defeat the No. 1 team in the conference on Saturday night but instead had to settle for a heart-breaker of a loss.
Minnesota Timberwolves fans at Target Center once again had the misfortune of witnessing another close home loss by their Wolves, this time against the Denver Nuggets.
While Minnesota fought valiantly against the Western Conference’s top seed, the team saw their effort fall just short of victory.
Let’s take a quick look through the box score and pull some key takeaways out to examine.
Box Score Winner: Karl-Anthony Towns
In one of the best games of the season from the Wolves’ All-Star, Towns posted 31 points (12-19 FG), 12 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and one block. Towns was active in all of his 37 minutes and was able to stay out of foul trouble. Uncharacteristically, Towns didn’t help himself at the free throw line, where he shot 5-of-9 in a game that was ultimately decided by one point.
It’s hard to be anything but satisfied with the play of Towns despite the loss. However, the Timberwolves were unable to get KAT the ball on the final possession of the game, a move which seems counter-intuitive considering Towns had hit a game-winning shot just two nights earlier against the Grizzlies.
The Timberwolves got excellent play out of veteran such as Jerryd Bayless, Luol Deng, and Gorgui Dieng, scoring 15, 11 and 10 points respectively.
The bench also featured the return of Derrick Rose, who added eight points in 20 minutes of play but wasn’t on the floor down the stretch. Dario Saric made two big 3-pointers but continued to struggle from the field, shooting just 2-of-7 overall.
The second unit, despite being thin due to the injuries of Robert Covington, Tyus Jones, and Jeff Teague, played well enough for Minnesota to win. Bench production hasn’t been an issue for the team overall, and particularly since Ryan Saunders took over the coaching duties. No player logged over 37 minutes as Saunders continues to feature a deep rotation.
Box Score Losers
The Timberwolves didn’t get enough production out of starters Taj Gibson, Andrew Wiggins, or Josh Okogie as the trio combined for just 22 points. Okogie continues to struggle offensively and will benefit greatly from Robert Covington’s eventual return as the rookie will be able to return to his spark-plug role on the second unit.
Gibson was tasked with guarding Denver star Nikola Jokic and was able to contribute little else. Taj didn’t play a bad game, he just didn’t have a huge impact in his limited playing time of just 22 minutes.
This seems like a good time to mention that the Timberwolves would be wise to shop the forward and his expiring contract before the Feb. 6 deadline. Gibson can certainly add value to a contender and is unlikely to be donning a Timberwolves statement green jersey next season.
Andrew Wiggins was mostly a non-factor against the Nuggets, scoring just 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting while contributing just four rebounds and two assists. To make matters worse, the wing got beat in transition a long outlet pass late in the game that will stick in Timberwolves fans’ collective craw.
Wiggins had been playing well of late, but as a volume scorer, 10 shots just wasn’t enough to make a difference in this contest.
What the Box Score Doesn’t Tell You
The Timberwolves didn’t rebound well enough on defense to win this one. Denver was able to feast on the offensive glass, getting second and even third shot attempts on multiple possessions.
The Nuggets, who were in the second night of a back-to-back and facing several injuries of their own were ripe for the Timberwolves taking but Minnesota was unable to capitalize on the opportunity.
With the loss, Minnesota falls to 25-27 on the season and stays in the No. 11 spot in the Western Conference. With the trade deadline looming, it may be time for the team to prioritize obtaining future assets to build around Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns play has been phenomenal lately, but the Timberwolves do not look like a playoff team through 52 games.
This week features three road games against teams with losing records in the Grizzlies, Magic, and Pelicans. A road sweep is just what the team needs if it has aspirations of heading into the All-Star break with a winning record.