Ahead of the emotional return of Mike Miller and Kevin Love to the Target Center Saturday night, the Timberwolves took the show on the road to Philadelphia to take on the 76ers. Along with the Knicks, the Wolves and Sixers are aiming for the most ping pong balls come lottery time and Flip Saunders’ Timberwolves took a commanding lead for the pole position.
Friday night’s game at Wells Fargo Center was downright embarrassing as the Wolves have lost both match-ups against a terrible basketball team this season. This one came with Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic back in the lineup. Just about every preconception I had on this year’s team came to fruition in last night’s game. I typically reserve some of my thoughts until seeing it with my own eyes … and that is exactly what happened last night.
The first 22 minutes of the game were pretty entertaining basketball if you like offense. If you like defense, you might have wanted to look away. The Wolves got big performances from Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng, while the Sixers were led by Michael Carter-Williams (MCW) and ex-Pup LRMAM.
With about two minutes to go in the first half, the Wolves started to fall apart and the body language of the vast majority of the squad became disturbing. After multiple turnovers, the Wolves gave the ball back to Philadelphia with 3.8 seconds on the clock. MCW received the inbounds pass and drove all the way to the hope for a buzzer beating layup. The lack of energy, effort, frankly anything from the Wolves on that play set the tone for the second half.
Already missing Mo Williams due to injury for Friday’s contest, Zach LaVine went down for a while with an ankle injury. After heading to the locker room for a bit, LaVine later returned to the court to play in the 4th quarter. I’m not sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing, outside of the fact that the injury itself doesn’t seem to be significant. LaVine is very clearly not ready to play Point Guard in the NBA on either side of the court. MCW crushed him throughout the night.
Unfortunately for the Wolves, LaVine’s backup is not an NBA caliber player. Lorenzo Brown’s return to the team that drafted him should be over upon the return of Ricky Rubio. The Brown signing is the type of laziness that exudes from the Wolves front office – “We drafted this guy a few years ago, so there was something there. He’s available and we need a PG. Sign him!”
The second half was the worst half of basketball I have ever seen with my own eyes. The Wolves put up 18 points in the 3rd quarter, outscoring the Sixers 18-17. Not to be outdone, Minnesota put up 17 points in the 4th quarter to allow the Sixers to put them away for good. The loss moves the Wolves to 8-38 on the season, while the Sixers go to 10-37. Minnesota now has a clear track to the most ping pong balls with two losses to Philadelphia. Joy.
The final score: 76ers 103, Timberwolves 94
- I want to touch on the body language again as there were a few particular examples worth calling out:
- Kevin Martin and the returning to Philly Thad Young could not have looked more disinterested. Martin was a chucker (5-18 FG’s) and Young didn’t seem to have much emotion returning to Philadelphia.
- The one guy that visibly cared the most, was wearing a suit and still recovering from his ankle injury. Ricky Rubio jumped out of his seat when the Wolves failed to execute in the fast break. The Wolves are lucky Rubio was willing to resign earlier this season.
- When LaVine twisted his ankle it was quite telling that not a single teammate stayed by or even really went to his side before heading to the locker room. This season and all of the losing is likely leading to a lot of this, but in the back of my mind is the fact that this is a Flip Saunders run team and he has never been known to enforce or instill camaraderie with his club. This isn’t going to end well.
- It was not a packed house last night …