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A skid ends, an impressive win against the Rockets, some Deng/Wiggins/Rose/Teague talk, and more in this edition. As usual, Rambling On god-king Erik Ritland interviews Wolves analyst Beartrap McManus.
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Since we last left our heroes, the Timberwolves have gone 2-1. Following the loss to the Magic, did the following loss to the Pelicans sting any less? Considering that it couldn't really get much lower than that...
Yeah, another rough game. But with their chances at the playoffs trending clearly in the wrong direction, I didn’t have high hopes.
The Wolves followed that up with two big-time victories against the Clippers (130-120) and Rockets (121-111). Two big changes: Teague and Rose came back and Wiggins was out.
What mattered more, Teague and Rose returning, or Wiggins being out of the way? Does how the Wolves played with this lineup prove or disprove your thoughts about Teague, Rose, and Wiggins?
Wiggins being out opened up opportunities for those two, as they’re both most effective with the ball in their hand, but it had more to do with them playing well than Wiggins’ absence. Since he joined the team, the Wolves have played better with Wiggins than without him, so it’s not an addition by subtraction type thing. It's more of a matter of their chances of winning increasing dramatically when anyone other than Towns plays well.
Teague hadn’t been playing well before his injury, and Rose’s play had been mercurial but trending downward after his hot start, so it was nice to see both of them back and looking pretty good. Teague especially.
Luol Deng lead the Wolves with 28 points in a gutsy effort against the Clippers. Were you impressed? We don't mention him much: what are your thoughts on what he brings to the team?
There hasn’t been much to mention, as he only left the bench in garbage time in already decided games under Thibs, and was brought in for veteran leadership more than anything.
I, like most, assumed he must be pretty washed to not get any minutes as a former Bull under Thibs, but his productivity as of late has been a very pleasant surprise.
How impressed were you with Okogie's coverage of James Harden?
He was great. His effort and instincts were on full display and it was fun watching NBA twitter blow up after he blocked Harden’s step-back three. Luol Deng played some pretty unorthodox but effective D on Harden as well, with his hands at his sides to avoid opportunities for fouls to get called.
Any other thoughts on what went right during those games?
Quality performances from Teague and Rose certainly helped, as did KAT’s expected nightly double-double, but moving Dario Saric into the starting lineup seemed to pay dividends for both his play and his team's. After a slow start in the Clippers game he’s acclimated well into his new role. He provides more versatility on offense as well as more effective spacing for Towns.
It's been a small sample size, but since we haven't asked in a couple weeks, what are your thoughts on the coaching of Ryan Saunders?
He’s certainly done some things I’ve liked. Starting Saric was one of them, and by all accounts he handled the situation well, with Taj Gibson apparently acclimating well to his new role. He saw something in Luol Deng and had already begun to play him before injuries necessitated it.
He also oversaw one of the worst stretches in recent Wolves memory, starting with the games against Utah a few weeks ago and finally ending with the win against the Clippers. So they jury is still out on him as far as I’m concerned.
I hope the Wolves do a meaningful and extensive coaching/management search this off-season with Saunders considered as a candidate. But knowing Glen Taylor, I doubt that will happen. Country clubbers gonna country club, as the saying goes.
Beartrap McManus is an NBA and Timberwolves expert. He has been a life coach for Rambling On god-king Erik Ritland since before time, a consultant for Rambling On since its founding, and Timberwolves analyst beginning in Series Five. He resides with his wife and twelve kids in Hurley, Wisconsin, where his wife owns a popular supper club.