Wednesday night didn’t go as planned for Jimmy Butler and the Minnesota Timberwolves, as they lost their highly anticipated season opener to the San Antonio Spurs, 107-99. FOX Sports North lists five takeaways – albeit, possibly a little knee-jerk – to the first 48 minutes of the Timberwolves’ new era.
Thibodeau trusts Tyus Jones
Probably the most notable item from Wednesday’s loss was the presence of Jones late in the game. Jones checked in with 3:12 remaining in third quarter and never returned to the bench. He was on the floor for the final 15 minutes and 23:06 in total throughout the night, just two fewer than starting point guard Jeff Teague. Teague likely won’t sit the full fourth quarter ever again like he did in San Antonio, but nevertheless, head coach Tom Thibodeau’s confidence in Jones running the offense was fully evident Wednesday. Maybe he read our preseason predictions.
Yep, Jimmy Butler’s defense is for real
Butler showed his tenacity on the defensive end late in the fourth quarter. With 2:30 remaining and the Wolves in desperate need of a turnover (and trailing by six), Butler rushed over to double-team Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who dished it out to teammate Manu Ginobili on the perimeter. Without taking a dribble, Ginobili hurled it back at Aldridge, forcing Butler to sprint back over to defend Aldridge after Andrew Wiggins had switched out earlier. Butler stood his ground and took a charge from the 6-foot-11, 260-pound forward, giving the Wolves the ball back with a great chance to bring the game within one possession. Overall, Butler didn’t have the greatest game on “D” in the box score (116 defensive rating), but if that couple of seconds is what we’re getting from him in the fourth quarter, count us in.
Andrew Wiggins could lead the team in 3s
It’s been a steady rise for Wiggins at the perimeter. He shot 31 and 30 percent from 3 in his first two years, and he boosted it to a 35.6 clip last season. All signs point to even more improvement in Year 4. Wiggins knocked down four of his six 3-point attempts Wednesday, keeping the Timberwolves within striking distance of the Spurs. Wiggins finished with a game-leading 26 points, although he left much to be desired from the free-throw line (4 of 9). Also notable: The 22-year-old played 30 minutes, which was third on the team but well shy of his 37 minutes per game average last year. His time on the floor now that the Wolves have more scorers off the bench is something to watch for as the season progresses.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
There’s one takeaway that we don’t need to be hesitant about after one game: We’re not mad at these jerseys. At all. Minnesota debuted its “Icon Edition” uniform against the Spurs, the threads that feature midnight navy and lake blue on the shorts and jersey. They looked fresh. Now we wait until the Wolves bring out the aurora green j’s and that fourth uniform edition that has yet to be released. (Insert “eye” emoji here.)
Give the defense some time
It’s going to take more than 48 minutes and three preseason games (not to mention a weeklong break in between) for Thibodeau’s defense to click on all cylinders. These guys are still getting used to each other while playing at game speed. The rotational defense didn’t look too sharp at times and Minnesota failed to come up on the right end of a few key 50-50 balls. But look for these Timberwolves to take strides on the defensive side Friday when they host the Utah Jazz and (gasp) Ricky Rubio.