Jonah: Derrick Williams’ career has been far from satisfying like that feeling of eating a salad for dinner. And ever since he’s been granted the truest opportunity to start and make a difference, he’s struggled to become the NBA-ready, go-to guy. Until this one. Williams was huge, putting up 24 points on 17 shots and grabbing a career-high 16 rebounds. He and Rubio led the miraculous comeback late in the fourth quarter and extended the game as long as they possibly could. They fell short in the end but the Wolves wouldn’t have been anywhere near close if it weren’t for Williams enormous and dominating performance (Finally.)
Tom: I’m writing after Derek and Jonah, so I’ll just encapsulate both their positives within my own. It’s interesting watching Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams develop chemistry. Kevin Love is clearly the best player on the Wolves, and Ricky Rubio is clearly the other player Minnesota plans to build around, and rightly so. His abilities are flashy, fun, useful and somewhat unprecedented.
But Williams’ skill-set almost seems better suited for Rubio’s. Love thrives on isolation plays and pick-and-pops. Williams thrives on soaring through the air and getting to the rim. While Rubio is certainly capable of running pick-and-pop plays with Love, it almost seems like a waste of his talent…like putting Heinz Ketchup on a $50 steak. What doesn’t seem like a waste: Rubio floating a perfectly-timed alley-oop over the rim so that Derrick Williams can slam it down.
Derek: Yes, he shot just 3-13, but Rubio played 40 minutes tonight, and flirted with a triple-double with his 18-9-10 statline. It’s great to see Rubio able to log heavy minutes once again and play well (shooting efficiency aside).
Jonah: Keeping the Jazz bigs out of the paint is no easy task, especially for the limp depth in the Wolves’ frontcourt. But getting outscored 54-30 in the paint is pretty embarrassing. The success at getting to the free throw line might make up for the large margin in some minds but not mine. Nikola Pekovic and Williams have to do a better job of holding down the paint on their own offensive end.
Tom: If you told me before the season that Minnesota’s starting shooting guard in the final game before the All-Star break would be averaging 11 points with a season eFG% of .648, I would have thought that Alexey Shved was playing up to and surpassing our wildest expectations. But he isn’t. Mickael Gelabale is (in an admittedly limited sample size).
Shved, for his part, has been struggling immensely. He doesn’t look comfortable handling the ball within the offense, nor does he look comfortable firing up jumper after jumper (he’s 24% from 3-point range in his last 13 games). After his initial success, it’s hard to watch him slip down the depth chart.
Derek: 12: Number of points the Timberwolves bench managed to muster up tonight.
43: Number of points the Jazz bench managed to put up tonight.
To be fair, the Timberwolves’ bench isn’t exactly loaded with scorers to begin with, but the guys that can contribute in that aspect — Alexey Shved and JJ Barea — were a combined 2-14 shooting. Off night, but certainly the bench’s performance tonight did little to off-set the Jazz’s dominance in the paint.
Jonah: Chris Johnson got some burn, albeit just one minute at the end of the game. #FreeCJ
Tom: Minnesota’s transition defense was really bad, especially late. The Jazz shot 9-11 in transition, according to Synergy Sports, but two of the plays came late in the fourth quarter. On both of them, four of Minnesota’s defenders were running up the floor in a slow pack, leaving the point guard (Rubio once and Ridnour once) on an island against three on-coming Jazz players. In both cases, the Jazz acted too quickly for Minnesota to foul, and in both cases, Utah ended up with an easy dunk.
Next up: The All-Star Break puts a wrinkle in the NBA action, so the Wolves won’t be back on the court until next Wednesday, when they play the 76ers at 7 pm.