Timberwolves Game Review 2: Pelicans

3/19/17: Timberwolves at Pelicans

 

Karl-Anthony Towns

In a crystal ball matchup with Anthony Davis, Special K showed off the full package. He carried the offense for the better part of the game and hit over 50% of his shots from all over the floor. Many of Towns’ points came from dunking home passes dropped-off by slashing guards, but he also had a hot hand from deep, finding a nice rhythm running off screens like a guard.

An issue arose when Town’s shots didn’t fall from the outside and he allowed Davis to beat him down the floor into the paint. The notion of “If you’re not crashing, and you’re not back, where are you?” applied when Towns would inexplicably linger to watch his missed shots instead of preventing a staple of the Pelicans transition offense: Davis posting up smaller guards. If it wasn’t coming from his own misses, Towns didn’t display the best selection of crashing attempts. This only made it easier for Davis to win the race down the floor.

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The few times that KAT guarded Boogie driving to the basket, he showed he was up to the task. Towns and Dieng can team up for some nice weak side blocks when the on-ball defender holds off the drive and the help creeps in to swat away a soft toss at the basket (however, it does leave the rim wide open for offensive rebounds if they don’t successfully pull the tactic off).

 

Andrew Wiggins

New Orleans has begun to experiment with a double point guard lineup comprised of Tim Frazier and Jrue Holiday. Thibodeau selected Wiggins as Holiday’s defender. I understand the logic: Jrue can struggle against lengthy defenders; but, Wiggins didn’t contain Jrue whatsoever, and I couldn’t help but think Rubio would have done a better job. Wiggins was by far the most exploitable perimeter defender, as he could not execute the prevent-middle responsibility of icing PNR. Jrue got over the screen and into the paint at will. Fellow Wolves had to help off of their man the more that it happened.

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The defensive assignment (or perhaps how many minutes he’s played this season) visibly wore Wiggins down. He looked dispirited at times and wasn’t up for the run-and-gun contest. On this fast break he didn’t expect the ball, then fired a pass far behind the target. Minutes later, after scoring at the rim, he could barely manage to get past the halfcourt line before Holiday sunk a 3.

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One ingredient of Wiggins’ offensive game that needs development is his use of ballscreens. He appears to lack confidence dribbling in a crowd and doesn’t use his body to protect the ball and put the defender at odds. He needs to be able to “put the defender in jail” by cutting them off as they fight to get back to him so he can draw more fouls or gain a better sense of comfort when he rises on dribble pull ups.

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A great example of Wiggins’ game being very much a work in progress and lacking creativity, is seeing him use the exact same unmastered finishing move numerous times in the same game. In the Boston game it was the standard Eurostep, tonight it was the step-over off-foot lay in.

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Overlooking his 5 turnovers, his box score still proved a mostly efficient offensive night for a scorer: 25 points on 10/19 shooting. He was able to punish a smaller E’Twaun Moore in the post, and found a nice rhythm towards the end of the 3rd quarter. Another thing I noticed about him is that, unlike his lack of size up to explosion moves, he’s got a knack for the open court and makes some pretty nice moves when he’s attacking from midcourt.

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Ricky Rubio

Rubio dished plenty of his typical claustrophobic accommodations in a 14 assist effort. He’s a patient passer that relies on manipulating an anxious help defender. Plenty of assists came from making routine passes to Towns , but a major reason why his total ballooned, came from an atypical high-tempo game; this is something to be considered when evaluating his stats.

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Rubio had another solid night on the defensive end. His on-ball defense is fundamental and provides foundation to the Wolve’s scheme. Off-ball, he is both savvy in using his location relative to the ball, and instinctive in sensing the proper rotation relative to his teammates.

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Kris Dunn

It was certainly a night to admire Kris Dunn’s caliber of defense. His pick-and-roll defense is compelling: he can sit in front of the outside lane and wait for the screen to arrive before hopping into position to cut off the ballhandler from using the screen. Dunn has unsuspecting length to get his fingers on shots, moves fluidly, and really attacks the ball well the split second it reaches a vulnerable position.

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Tyus Jones

Less in the mold of Dunn, and more like Rubio, Tyus Jones was another good perimeter defender for Minnesota. The strength that stands out to me is his anticipation. He can extend pressure beyond the arc and use his quickness to prevent backdoors and avoid fouling.

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Shabazz Muhammad

Muhammad’s unorthodox post game is a difficult cover even for opponents that match him in size and weight. Bazz had even more of a greenlight than usual when the Pelicans lack of wing depth put E’Twaun Moore on him. He knows how to draw fouls (3/5 FT’s) and put up an efficient 20 points on 8/13 shooting.

 

Playbook

Ram Fist

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SLOB Flex Reverse Fist

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Motion Weak

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Horns Slot

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Floppy

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Triple Stagger Duck-In

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Down/Power/Elevator Punch Variation

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AI Reverse Punch

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AI Power

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12 Fist Double Tight

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Summary

The Timberwolves suffered another collapse in the 2nd half, getting outscored by 10 in each quarter. New Orleans was able to establish the tempo, in a fairly fluid game, by winning the rebounding battle by 10; Minnesota only obtained 9 offensive boards, the same total the Pelicans had by the end of the game. There were times that the T’Wolves looked devitalized and surrendered easy points. Jrue Holiday lit up Wiggins for 21 and 7. The Pels hit 5 more 3’s and made over 10% more of their attempts. New Orleans had 2 players (Crawford & Moore: 36) in double-figures off the bench, Minnesota only had 1 (Bazz: 20).


Tommy Driscoll

@drizmasterflash

tommy@dimetheoryhoops.com

 

 

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