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Back and Forth About Timberwolves vs. Clippers

by Sam Johnson and Joe Tevelowitz

From: Joe

To: Sam

When you first asked me to join you on this viewing and journalistic journey through tonight’s Timberwolves/Clippers game, I hesitated. With two of my favorite teams playing tonight (Bulls vs Pelicans), I figured there were better games to watch and things to do. However, with game time less than an hour away, and Karl-Anthony Towns scheduled to return, I find myself excited for this matchup. The Clippers have one of the only real chances at dethroning the Lakers. The Wolves have one of the realest chances at landing Cade Cunningham and the number 1 pick. With 2020 #1 Anthony Edwards in tow, there should be reason for some excitement in Target Town. You tell me though. Who should I be looking out for tonight? What matchups excite or worry you? And have you already started looking towards the team that might be, or do you still have some hopes for the Timberwolves of now? Rooting for your guys tonight and hoping we get a competitive one. 

From: Sam

To: Joe

Wow – I am both honored and very nervous that I just subjected you to a grilled cheese sandwich when you could have been served filet mignon. No sugarcoating, the Wolves have been AWFUL. They are 30th in point differential, they are 30th in offense, and have the worst record in the league. However, KAT has played four games. FOUR. They are proud owners of a +6.6 point differential when Towns is on the court (Brooklyn is 5th in the NBA with +3.5) and have beaten Utah on the road, though they are only 2-2. Obviously I am not saying they are a top 5 team with KAT, but they aren’t a joke-of-the-league bad when they have their franchise star.

Related to the above, you should be watching KAT – he’s back! Also, you should be watching Edwards. I know Lamelo has all of the recent buzz, but Edwards is electrifying in his own right. He can score 9 points in 3 minutes, or he can go 0/4 with a turnover – both are firmly in play at any given time. Did you see his dunk at the end of the half against Dallas by chance? Blew by Luka (okay not All-Defense material) and absolutely threw down a hammer over Powell. He’s a freak athlete and his penetration game is developing. More off of the beaten path, keep one eye open on Jaylen Nowell. He’s been in double figures eight straight games and I’m guessing over half of the TNT crew has no idea who he even is. As for this season vs the future, it is really depressing. They are screwed by their draft pick obligation (owe top 3 protected go GSW) so tanking is not very viable but are already so buried in the standings that this year is basically out. Given their draft pick conundrum I am still actively cheering for victories and just tangible development. Beasley is just straight up good. I love Jaden McDaniels potential, even if he does sorta look like a baby giraffe running around at the moment. I think they are the #1 youngest team in the league. Essentially I want them to be putting an actual NBA product forward each night and just see how their record falls. How much have you seen of all the young guys (Edwards, McDaniels, Vanderbilt, Nowell)?

Fun but probably useless nugget: Last year they Wolves POUNDED the Clips at the Target Center just after their flurry of trades – I believe they hit a franchise record 26 treys as they routed them. Oddly enough KAT played and DLo did not, just like tonight. So you’re sayin there’s a chance. Speaking of, what do you think about Russell? He is polarizing around these parts and Wolves twitter. Is he even good? Does he make a team better? Will you forgive me for missing Zion vs Chicago if this game is trash? 

I am normally very pessimistic but tonight KAT back, no PG – I am feeling a Wolves win. Let’s do this.

From: Joe

To: Sam

I like the optimism and after that early start, I can feel a battle brewing. All of the Wolves got involved and KAT got a dunk and three — what more can you ask for? Oh no more COVID for this guy and his family? Yea, I’d ask for that for him and everyone else too. 

On DLo, I was a fan when he was with the Lakers. He does that cool ice in the veins taunt and had a couple game winners that won me over. I think his time and All Star appearance while in Brooklyn led to him being a little overrated, but I think he can still be a third option on a good team. Question will be, can Beasley or Edwards be the second option on this team?

KAT just elevated for a big breakaway dunk and reminded me just how good this guy is. I hope he sticks it out in Minnesota and helps to build a winner here. They have a lot of pieces in place, now it’ll be about how they move them on the chess board. One question I’ve got for you, is Ryan Saunders more than a sentimental choice as coach?

From: Sam

To: Joe

That was a roaring start – if only fans could safely be allowed back into the arena, I would have been there tonight. Did you enjoy the Okogie experience on full display early? Scrappy offensive rebounds, a swipe, a 3, but a missed layup missed open 3 and two missed fts. So much heart and hustle, so little grace and touch.

DLo provides arguably the most coveted skill in the NBA – the ability to create and make shots, specifically threes and at a high volume. Yet he leaves you wanting so much more. I agree he can probably be your third option on a good-to-great team. I think Beasley plus a good progression arc from Edwards could be more than enough offensive firepower, but then you need to shore up the defense. 

Regarding coach Saunders, I am not at liberty to say anything bad about him as he sent me a personal birthday note last year. (Shout-out to him and having a connection) But on a serious note, I certainly don’t think he has been the problem. KAT and DLo have logged 5 games together as Wolves. He’s had his entire roster turned over midseason in 2020 and then the year ended due to covid and they weren’t invited to the bubble. Then a short offseason, minimal preseason, and injuries/covid have been the story of this season. They also have the worst PF personnel in the NBA. I think some of his late game challenge/timeout usage has been suspect thus far and it is a bit alarming to get blasted out of the gate (they allowed 83 pts to OKC in one half last week) more than a few times, so it is fair to ask the question. I just am wary to blame a coach this early when we only see a small piece of their work on game nights. It is a players league through and through, and I sort of think only the bottom 10% and top 10% or so of coaching makes a big impact. Long story short, the players seem to like him and he deserves a chance to actually coach the full squad for a significant time frame.

McDaniels defense has me jumping off my couch.

From: Joe

To: Sam

Okogie looking good on offense and making Kawhi work on defense. Kawhi gonna get his but Okogie really only got bowled over once. Nowell looked good too and Naz Reid has a beautiful arc to his shot. One went in, one didn’t, but he was active and held his own in there. Really that whole second unit showed up. 

Up 6 at the half and gotta say I’m pleasantly surprised with the Wolves fight. I think the Clips make their push in the third, but if KAT gets going and the guys around him keep hitting, we got a slobberknocker on our hands. 

Gonna switch over to Bulls/Pels at the half, but wanted to touch on your coaching accounting for 10 percent theory. I think that sounds pretty accurate, in theory, but having watched Jim Boylen coach an NBA team, I think a coach can have a negative impact that outweighs that 10 percent, especially when they refuse to truly let players play and try to imprint teams with too much of their personality. From everything I’ve seen with Saunders though, that might be the type of personality you want imprinted. And if he’s nice enough to send you some birthday wishes, he’s ok in my book. 

Any adjustments you’re looking towards in the second half? Who would you have guarding Lou Will, who made both his girlfriends proud in the first half?

From: Sam

To: Joe

I like Okogie, he just doesn’t have any fluidity on offense. Love his gritty D and effort though. Plus he was at the SBC club in Vegas remember? Forever a winner in our hearts I will proclaim. The Naz 4-year Hinkie special contract is a huge win. He can play.

Right on cue – the Clippers are making their push. They play a lot of Kawhiso ball no? Maybe it’s just because PG is out, but he does a lot of one on one, let me break you down and get a turnaround or step back. Obviously he is one of the best at it, but it isn’t too aesthetically pleasing. Also, is there a more unlikeable player than Patrick Beverly if your team is facing him? Even if he isn’t doing overtly annoying things on the court, he gives me the please get off of my TV screen vibes.

Haha Lou is such an NBA oddity.. Just by body type and athleticism he should not be 18 ppg while looking half asleep, but he does so every year like clockwork (though off to a slow start this year). I think they need someone bigger but smart on him (he will draw too many fouls on their rookies) but who is that? Maybe Beasley would be the best idea but that’s a dart throw. Getting Towns more involved is always my adjustment. Even if it’s high post or PnR actions where he isn’t the shooter, he puts fear into the defense if he’s near the action. Minnesota also needs to stop fouling. Hemorrhaging points at the FT line is not good when you are the inferior team.

Anything sticking out to you about LAC tonight or long term? Do you care that PG is playing great or are you just needing to see it in the playoffs? Should Batum be praised for his comeback or embarrassed for flopping in Charlotte? Do they need a point guard upgrade from Reggie Jackson/Pat Bev/Lou Williams trio or are those guys solid and versatile enough to hang in the biggest moments?

From: Joe

To: Sam

I’ve always been an Ivica Zubac fan, so that big guy sticks out. Ya know who else is fun? Terrence Mann. I can see how he etched out a place in Ty Lue’s rotation. 

Few notes I took on the third quarter — Beasley not afraid to shoot it, came out firing even after not scoring in the first half. Clips put together a nice run to tie it, and after they did I thought for sure the play call would be for KAT. Instead, we got an Ant-Man 3 attempt and Towns didn’t even touch the ball. Clips had a 12-0 run that ended finally when KAT got a shot off a Rubio pass. And Rubio can still pass, but he can’t shoot, and him plus Okogie out there was messing up the Wolves spacing. 

Clips built a little bit of a lead to end that quarter, but I’m still hopeful for you and the Wolves. I do remember Okogie rolling through the club, but mostly I remember your excitement at that fact, and then a lot of talk about our dogs. 

Let’s hope the Wolves find some bite to go with their bark here in the fourth. 

From: Sam

To: Joe

I’m with you on Mann, he looks like a solid role player to fill in around high octane scorers like Lou, Kawhi, PG. They sort of have a motley crew of guys in the Clipper rotation outside of the stars. Mann 2nd rounder, Batum waived, Reggie Jackson waived, Zubac practically given away in the LAL trade. I think Kennard and Ibaka are going to be crucial to their postseason success

This game has gone a bit sideways. Sad trombone. Down 10 with 5 mins to go. Wish me luck. Thanks to timeouts and challenges I was able to catch the last minute of Luka-Trae battle. So I at least have that going for me.

From: Joe

To: Sam

Things were looking up after that 9-0 fourth quarter run, capped off by a Naz Reid 3. Naz Reid also has one of those names that I feel like you should always say the full name. Naz Reid. Power name. Unfortunately for him and the TWolves, Lou Will followed up that 9-0 run with a personal 5-0 run. 

Kawhi looking like the closer he’s shown he can be in the fourth. The guy can flat out score, never gets hurried, and makes winning plays. I don’t know if he’ll ever win an MVP, but he’s one of the best players of this generation, and one of the most unique. 

I think the turning point here was the Wolves turnovers. Clips scored 14 points off the last 7 Wolves turnovers and with them down 13 with 2:27 to play, I think that’s all she wrote. 

Still, I’m glad you had me turn in for this game. Wolves played hard, Clips just a better team. Naz Reid probably Minnesota’s MVP tonight, but Lou Will and The Klaw were locked in. Think Minny will play more and more through KAT as he works back into playing condition, but he still had flashes where you went DAMN tonight. There are worse things to be than a franchise with a guy like that. 

Congrats to you on catching the end of Luka/Trae and honestly, congrats on having a team that’s fun to root for. With the Bulls now within 4, I think it’s time I go root for them, but glad to have been a Minny maniac, if even just for a night. 

From: Sam

To: Joe

Agreed. Those turnovers (and just being a worse team) did it. Doesn’t help that the Clippers shot > 50% from 3. Kawhi was lethal. Minnesota probably could have used DLo’s shot making a bit when things got stagnant in the 2nd half. Nice thing about iso shake and bake pull-ups is that they produce very low turnover rates. 

They provided some entertainment but can never seem to string 48 good minutes together. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

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