April 19, 2018, 1:40 am
If there was one thing the Wolves drastically improved from Game 1 to Game 2, it was shutting down the two players who did the most damage against them.
James Harden went for 12 points on 2-of-18 shooting, while Clint Capela scored just eight points. Surely after the Wolves nearly beat the Rockets on Sunday with Harden and Capela combining for 68 points the Wolves would be in fantastic shape this time out, right?
Not quite. On a night where Harden and Capela struggled to score and the Wolves hold the Rockets to just 36.5 percent shooting, Houston still managed to blow out the Wolves 102-82.
It was frankly a disappointing performance from everyone involved. Karl-Anthony Towns scored five points and now has just 13 in two games. Jimmy Butler is clearly playing through a lot of pain in his right wrist. Jeff Teague struggled with foul trouble in the first half and hardly played in the second when the game got out of reach.
Andrew Wiggins was the lone bright spot with 13 points, eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block. When that’s the best line of the starting unit, it’s obvious the team had a long night.
The Wolves’ offense was completely shut down, and coming off a game where the coach and players seemed to be on a different page this was certainly a harrowing sign. In between Game 1 and Game 2, Tom Thibodeau and Teague had opposing views on how the offense was executed in the first game.
It’s never a good sign when a player, especially a starting point guard, is preaching a different approach than the head coach. It’s not a good sign in the offseason, the regular season and certainly not the postseason. Who knows if they reached common ground in practice, but after an offensive effort like this, it’s not going to instill much confidence.
The Wolves had a pretty nice start to the game, at least for the first few minutes. The team was executing their plays like they were practicing. The writing was on the wall, though. The team shot 39.1 percent from the field in the first quarter, which turned out to be an indicator of what was to come.
The rotations got jumbled slightly and the effect was a discombobulated affair. Thibs, known for his stubbornness, rolled with the small ball lineup for far too long (Jamal Crawford, Derrick Rose, Jeff Teague and Jimmy Butler). Throughout the season a bad lineup would throw the Wolves out of sync for extended stretches where even the starters had trouble getting back into the right tempo.
For the entire night the Wolves shot 38.8 percent and looked disconnected from any sort of offensive rhythm. The Wolves scored just 35 points in the second and third quarters combined, and by the time the fourth rolled around, Thibs waived the white flag by starting five bench players and letting them loose the rest of the way.
Extracting positives out of this game is tough, but there can at least be some credit for the defense. Houston is now shooting just 41.3 percent from the field through two games, including just 29.2 percent from 3-point range. So far it’s been about the only thing the Wolves have done right this series.
Down 2-0 the Wolves head home to host their first playoff game since 2004. If the team can bring the same intensity on the defensive end and settle in on their home floor on the offensive end, perhaps the Wolves can get a win.
The Rockets have certainly looked beatable in these first two games, but the Wolves’ offensive execution has just been lacking more than at any point this season. Right now no one is safe from the blame. Everyone, from Thibs to the players, needs to be better.