Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Philadelphia 76ers: Red flags for the Wolves?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 30: Jarrett Culver #23 of the Minnesota Timberwolves shoots the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 30: Jarrett Culver #23 of the Minnesota Timberwolves shoots the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Are there any red flags that have popped up surrounding the Minnesota Timberwolves after a 22-point loss in Philadelphia on Wednesday night?

At this point, we all know the lead story from Wednesday’s matchup between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers. After all, the brawl between Karl-Anthony Towns and Joel Embiid dominated NBA Twitter throughout Wednesday night and into Thursday morning.

There was a basketball game as well, and it did not go as well as Timberwolves fans would have liked. Few people thought that these two teams were on equal footing coming into the year, with the Sixers considered to be among the elite in the Eastern Conference and the Wolves fighting for their playoff lives in the West.

Given the impressive 3-0 start the Wolves got off to however, it’s worth looking into whether their first misstep was a reality check or a speed bump on their way to a breakout season.

The Wolves held their own through the first quarter and a good chunk of the second, but that’s where it started to get away from them. They went down by as many as 25 points and despite an encouraging run by a feisty, shorthanded group  to bring it back within 12 towards the end of the third quarter, it was a rather easy victory for the Sixers.

Evident to anyone watching the game was the massive rebounding differential. Philadelphia finished the game out-rebounding the Wolves 56-34. Al Horford has been a fantastic player throughout his career. Rebounding, for the most part has never been his strong suit. He hasn’t averaged more than 7.4 rebounds per game since 2014, but he collected 16 rebounds in the game. James Ennis also pulled in 11 rebounds in only 19 minutes from the wing position.

Simply put, the Timberwolves need to be able to do a better job on the glass than what they showed Wednesday night. With Karl-Anthony Towns suspended for the next 2 games, this will become an even bigger problem if not emphasized immediately, most likely leading to offseason acquisition Jordan Bell seeing his first significant playing time of the season.

Towns picked up six rebounds in only 23 minutes of playing time. However Josh Okogie was the only other Timberwolf able to match that number.

For much of the night, the Wolves offense also left a lot to be desired. Stagnant possessions dominated a majority of the game, and they only assisted on 12 field goals all night.  With 106 possessions for the game, this comes to an assist rate per 100 possessions of about 11. For reference, the Knicks finished last in the league in assists per 100 possessions last season with 20.1.

Needless to say, the offense needs to improve as well, particularly with Karl-Anthony Towns off the court. Some of this comes down to simply making shots. Towns and Jeff Teague shot a combined 5-9 from 3 point range, but the rest of the Wolves shot just 5-26 from deep on the night.

This is something that should even out over the season to some extent. Players like Robert Covington and Shabazz Napier have proven their worth over their careers as outside shooters and should knock down more open shots as the year goes on. While there have been some mixed results with the Timberwolves increased focus on the 3-point shot so far this season, being 3-1 while shooting only 29 percent from deep is reason for optimism once things even out.

It’s not fair to judge the Wolves’ based on this game alone. In short, it’s not a realistic goal for them to be able to compete with teams like the Sixers on a night to night basis this season. There will be more nights as the season goes on where they will be simply overmatched.

The room for improvement in the shooting department however, and the fight they have shown in coming back for a win in Charlotte and not giving up in the Sixers game gives room for a positive outlook moving forward.

Next. First week surprises and disappointments for the Wolves. dark

If you had asked any Timberwolves’ fan before the season, they would have been more than happy with a 3-1 start regardless of circumstances. Wednesday night’s game in some respects may be a reason for concern, but with reasonable expectations for this season’s Wolves’ team it’s not time to panic.