5 Thoughts on the Wolves Overtime Loss to the Spurs

A real competitive NBA game took place with the Wolves losing in overtime to the San Antonio Spurs. Out of context, this loss looks like a 7th straight loss in a season that is heading the wrong direction. In context this game was a breath of fresh air for Wolves fans who have watched the team struggle to compete in 6 previous disheartening losses. With Karl-Anthony Towns back in the lineup, we can get back to real analysis of the team. Here are 5 thoughts on the Wolves loss:

 

  1. Karl-Anthony Towns is so valuable that he boosts the Wolves from the worst team in the league to somewhere in the middle with his mere presence on the court. Towns was clearly not 100% healthy in this game. He used his healthy hand to do as much as possible, and avoided using his casted left wrist unless it was absolutely necessary. He still managed 25 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 blocks while competing through obvious pain. His impact goes beyond the box score, as every player’s role becomes clearly defined behind him, and they can focus on their responsibilities. It also helps to have Towns’ size and athleticism at the center position, something the team was sorely lacking in recent games. Hopefully Towns is able to play most of the games from here on out, as this team is actually very fun to watch when he is in the lineup!
  2. Jarrett Culver is a player who benefits from Towns’ presence more than almost anyone else on the team. Culver’s performance has shown to be a bit volatile so far in his young career. His play improves or declines seemingly based on his confidence in himself. With an unclear role or hierarchy on offense recently, Culver has regressed towards his rocky performances from last year. With Towns back in the lineup, Jarrett has a clearly defined role on offense; he can be a smart cutter and shoot the occasional spot-up 3pt. shot when he is wide open. He does not need to be saddled with ball handling duties or feel the need to get others going. He can focus solely on fitting in and doing what he does best. He finished with an efficient 10 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 3 assists. While he struggled on defense against DeMar DeRozan (almost everyone does) he is clearly a more valuable wing player when Towns is in the game.
  3. Naz Reid is much more fun to watch in a backup center role. During this Wolves losing streak I have written good things and bad things about Naz’s performance. He is unfairly being pitted against experienced and superior centers, and that is a significant reason for his inconsistent play. With Towns in the lineup, Naz’s role fits this team perfectly. He received only 16 minutes, but made the most of his time on the court. When he knows he does not need to play heavy minutes, he seems to play more freely and with more energy. Last night he was able to produce 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks in his limited time. He got to play primarily with the Wolves 2nd unit, and against the Spurs 2nd unit. Naz obviously feels more confident playing against bench players, and if Towns can stay in the lineup the Wolves can have a significant 1–2 punch at the center position.
  4. One disappointing note from the game was that Jarred Vanderbilt only played 12 minutes despite seeming like the best option at power forward. For reference, Juancho Hernangomez received 23 minutes and did not seem like he added value to the team in his minutes. I understand the logic: Jarrett Culver is currently considered a ‘non-shooter’ in the starting lineup, so they are trying to space the floor around Towns as best as possible. Adding Vanderbilt to that mix would have further shrunk the floor. The Wolves went with a smaller lineup late in the game trying both Culver and Edwards at the power forward position, but it may have been helpful to mix in Vanderbilt. The Spurs were clearly intent on having DeMar DeRozan drive into the lane, so Vanderbilt could have added another rim protector and rebounder. Vando continues to show he deserves time on the court, and it will be on the coaching staff to find where he can fit in best.
  5. The combination of Karl-Anthony Towns & Malik Beasley could be a fruitful partnership on offense. Much has been written about D’Angelo Russell and Towns’ friendship off the court and potential fit on the court. I am much more interested in the offensive potential of Beasley and Towns together. The two players have played 5 games together between last season and this season. In those 5 games Beasley is averaging 21.6 points, and has made 7 three pointers in 2 of them. Malik is still relatively inconsistent as a scorer at this point in his career, but when he is in the zone he is as good of a shooter as anyone in the league. Pairing that type of sniping with an offensive superstar like Towns is not going to be easily stopped. Defenses will have to decide whether to double Towns and make him pass, or let Towns go 1 on 1 with a post defender. With Beasley’s superior off-ball movement (he is ALWAYS hunting for his shot) and Towns passing ability, defenses have no obvious answers. If they can both stay healthy, this duo’s chemistry will only grow.
 

-Jerry W.