By: Tim Parochka
It was the first game of the 2009-10 season. The Minnesota Timberwolves' latest draft selection Jonny Flynn was making his debut.
Flynn led a fourth quarter comeback at home against the New Jersey Nets. The Wolves trailed by 14 points entering the final frame, but Flynn scored 13 of his 18 points in the final eight minutes and the Wolves won by two on opening night.
I remember Jonny Flynn's first NBA game so vividly because I thought the Timberwolves had a star. A meaningless opening night game against the Nets swayed my opinion of Flynn. It made no sense. I was lost in Flynn's quickness and ability to finish at the rim. One quarter. Eight minutes. And I thought Flynn had star qualities.
I use the example of Jonny Flynnn above because I try with supreme effort not to get lost in the moment. Hype and off-season workout videos, analysis from "experts" and YouTube videos featuring players ability to dunk or shoot a three with no defenders are all different ways people lose an objective perspective.
I had learned my lesson and vowed to keep a level mind.
Tom Thibodeau had to experiment with lineups because of an injury to Zach LaVine. It resulted in Nemanja Bjelica in the starting lineup most likely because Brandon Rush and Shabazz Muhammad were also out with injuries.
Andrew Wiggins started at shooting guard. Nemanja Bjelica started at small forward. The result was a blow-out win against a surprising 6-4 team, the L.A. Lakers.
For the first time all season, the Wolves' appeared to have the most size. We watched Steven Adams and Enes Kanter, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic, and Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan destroy the Wolves inside.
The addition of Bjelica into the starting lineup benefited the Wolves on offense and defense.
Defensively, the Wolves were able to switch screens without much worry of a mismatch or hindering an offensive rebound. Offensively, Wiggins and Bjelica scored career-highs which could have been the result of having favorable size matchups.
Andrew Wiggins scored 47 points while only attempting 21 shots. Let me repeat. TWENTY-ONE shots. That's impossible and it indicates an aggressive Andrew Wiggins. Was Wiggins aggressive because he knew he could power through a weaker defender guarding him? Possibly.
Nemanja Bjelica also received cleaner looks and showed an aggressiveness that hasn't been seen very often. Bjelica was not being guarded by the prototypical power forward and it resulted in easier shots.
Was all of the Wolves success due to a few small tweaks to the lineup? No, there were some outside factors.
The L.A. Lakers were playing their third game in four nights and were most likely exhausted. The Wolves were also very desperate for a win after a slow 2-6 start to a hopeful season.
Should the Wolves change their starting lineup after one successful game against the Lakers? Probably not. We still need to see some more of Zach LaVine in the starting lineup.
However, it would be a shame if Thibodeau didn't experiment more with Nemanja Bjelica at small forward and Wiggins at shooting guard.