An eye-opening loss to the Memphis Machine

After an embarrassing 101-93 loss at home to the tanking Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night, many Timberwolves fans are voicing negative opinions of head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Thibodeau has built a reputation over his career of not resting his starters, and this narrative has not changed during his time with the Timberwolves.

The “Memphis Machine” entered the Target Center losing 23 of its last 24 games. In what should have been an easy win, Thibs, like he’s been doing regularly since Jimmy Butler’s injury, used only an 8-man rotation. Four of the five starters played at least 39 minutes and three of those four (Gibson, Wiggins, Teague) played 42 minutes or more.

The exhausted Wolves were outscored 23-11 in the final period, resulting in what point guard Jeff Teague called “by far” the team’s worst loss of the season.

Thibs, as he often does, did not take any blame for Monday’s loss. He cited a lack of toughness by his team as the main factor.

I believe this loss, like many others, is more on Thibodeau and his (lack of) rotation. When your starters are playing that number of minutes they will run out of energy as the game carries on.

Tyus Jones, who has mostly shined in a limited role this season, saw the floor for just five minutes. Jamal Crawford, who struggled while he was on the floor (10 points on 3-12 shooting) played 30 minutes.

Timberwolves Twitter was a dark place after the game. Many fans, including myself, are fed up with Thibs’ stubbornness. It’s only a matter of time before another star player falls victim to an injury due to being overworked.

Earlier this season, Butler jokingly/not jokingly said he should talk to Thibs about playing 40 minutes per game. In mid-February, starting power forward Taj Gibson had some thoughts about the Timberwolves’ rotation as well.

Now, Teague is the latest Wolves starter to voice his thoughts on the lack of reserve playing time.

The Timberwolves don’t have one of the stronger benches in the league, but they have guys who can contribute. Minnesota was getting blown out by the 76ers on Saturday and Thibs put the second unit of Jones, Aaron Brooks, Marcus Georges-Hunt, Gorgui Dieng and Cole Aldrich in near the beginning of the fourth quarter.

The Wolves’ bench squad almost got the team back into contention, cutting Philadelphia’s lead to single digits and forcing Sixers head coach Brett Brown to bring his star players Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons back in to close out the game. Minnesota ended up losing 120-108, but the reserves shined by outscoring Philly 37-22 in the fourth.

I’m not saying Thibs should regularly have all those guys in the rotation, but I think it’s worth a shot giving Georges-Hunt a chance. The Wolves need another wing presence off the bench to contribute and give the starters a break, so why not see if he can be a viable option for 10-12 minutes/game?

Also, Jones has done more than enough to prove that he should consistently see 20-23 minutes per game. Jones ranks 14th in the NBA in assist/turnover ratio (4.29) and 12th in real plus-minus (4.94).

In the first quarter, when the starters are fresh, the T-Wolves rank 10th in offensive rating (108.2) and seventh in defensive rating (101.7).

In the fourth quarter, the Wolves have a great offensive rating of 110.1, which is good for fifth in the NBA; however, the defensive rating skyrockets to 113, which ranks last in the league. Some of this likely has to do with lack of execution and experience from the younger guys, but I am confident that they would be a much better fourth quarter team if the starters were not dead by the final period.

I was so excited when the Wolves brought Thibodeau in as the head coach. His knowledge of the game mixed with the team’s young talent was supposed to be a combination that would propel them into a contender for the foreseeable future. Instead, he has overworked his star players and seemingly not raised the ceiling for the team in any way.

I’ve been forced off of Tom Thibodeau Island.

Thibs has to change. And if he is not willing to, which seems likely, it may be in the team’s best interest to explore new head coaching options this offseason.

The risk in firing Thibs is that Jimmy Butler will also want to leave Minnesota once his contract expires. At this point, it seems like a risk I’m willing to see them take.

Author: thrillswithjmills

Food lover located in Fargo, N.D. Chicken strip aficionado; blogger; aspiring TikTok superstar.

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