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Wolves 102, Kings 88: Bjeli and the Beast

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After a slow start, the Wolves turned to Professor Big Shots to help defeat the Kings men

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Sacramento Kings Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

In Hollywood, film remakes are all the rage.

Over the the past decade, production companies like Universal Studios and Warner Bros. have unleashed remakes to well-known classics like “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “King Kong,” and “The Karate Kid.” Moreover, in just a few weeks, one of the most popular movies of my childhood will be remade on the big screen — “Beauty and the Beast.”

On Monday night, 378 miles north of the famous Hollywood sign, a different version of the upcoming remake took place on the shiny floor of the new Golden 1 Center.

Lead by Nemanja “Belly” Bjelica and Karl-Anthony Towns, the Wolves feasted on the offensive glass as they strolled past the new-look Kings 102-88. If you were late to tune in for this one, you missed quite a sequence on both ends of the court:

From there, the Kings went on a 16-6 run, sparked mostly by a putrid combination of careless turnovers, lifeless defensive rotations, and #trill rim protection from the Kings’ new franchise center:

Outside of Andrew Wiggins, the Wolves looked less than enthused early on about competing against another team fighting for the 8-seed in the Western Conference, but all of that changed when a certain Serbian professor checked into the game at the 4:46 mark of the first quarter.

Playing the part of Emma Watson, Belly came in and immediately looked like the franchise player Phil Jackson thought he was, attacking the offensive glass, diving for loose balls, and confidently stroking from deep (yes, he only connected on 2-8 from three, but since you were probably sleeping, you’ll have to trust me here). The added production and overall energy off the bench was must needed, considering Gorgui Dieng played in what might have been his worst game of the season, tallying 2 points on 0-8 shooting (he did manage to grab 10 boards in his 20 minutes on the court).

Conversely, Belly played quite possibly his best game in a Wolves uniform, tossing in 10 points, 12 rebounds (including 4 offensive), 2 assists, 2 steals, no turnovers, AND ONE BLOCK:

Whatever the reason, Belly looked like a different player on Monday against the Kings, and his energy on defense was contagious, especially for Andrew Wiggins (four steals), Ricky Rubio (two steals, one block), Kris Dunn (one steal, one block), and Karl-Anthony Towns (three blocks). As good teams usually do, the Wolves turned their good defense into good offense, responding to a lackluster first quarter by outscoring the Kings 40-19 in the second. Up 60-44 after two quarters, the Wolves started the third with beautiful action that led to a 26-foot three-pointer from Towns (his one and only attempt of the game), and from there the Wolves never looked back.

Speaking of KAT, he was a quintessential beast. Doing nearly all of his damage in the paint, Towns poured in 29 points on 13-19 shooting, grabbed 17 rebounds (including 8 on the offensive glass), dished out 2 assists, and frosted that whole cake with one picture-perfect Dirk impersonation:

According to our BFF’s at Timberwolves PR, Towns performance on Monday night was his third straight game of 25 points/15 rebounds and is the longest streak in the NBA since Kevin Love did it four times back in 2014. Sometimes his points came off of offensive rebounds, sometimes they came off of pick-and-pops with Wiggins, and sometimes they simply came gift-wrapped from Spanish Unicorns:

If Monday was the Wolves best attempt at a Hollywood remake, then Wiggins did his best gangly candle impression by dropping 27 points on 45% shooting, actually breaking a streak of seven games in which he shot 50% or better from the field. In the month of February specifically, Wiggins averaged 29.0 points on an insane 52% shooting, ranking him fifth during that time in terms of points per game, only behind superstars like Russell Westbrook (32.4), James Harden (30.9), Isaiah Thomas (30.2), and Anthony Davis (29.5). At only 22-years old, those don’t look like the statistics of a bust, but then again I’m not a doctor.

The scorching play of Wiggins aside, Monday’s performance was all about the on-court chemistry of everyone’s favorite odd couple. With much respect to Gorgui Dieng, many of us in the Canis community have long wondered what it would look like to pair a true playmaking, stretch-four alongside KAT in attempts to mimic a modern day offensive approach. On Monday night, Belly showed just how beautiful basketball can be for the Wolves going forward.

In the end, it was Tom Thibodeau, who after witnessing Dieng struggle badly to hit shots or make plays of any sort, channeled his inner Celine Dion, making “just a little change, small to say the least, both a little scared, neither one prepared”...

Belly and the Beast.

Other Notes:

  • Brandon Rush hit his 500th career triple last night. A few more of those and the Wolves may have to think about retiring his jersey as well.
  • By scoring 27 points, Wiggins extended his 25+ point streak to nine games, which is currently the longest active streak in the NBA and the third longest streak in the NBA this season.
  • #FreedTyusJones
  • Kris Dunn had another solid outing in his 17 minutes on the court, adding four points, two assists, and no turnovers. The notable thing here is that this was Dunn’s third consecutive game seeing less playing time than Tyus (27 minutes), and it’s apparent (at least for now) that Thibs trusts Tyus to run the second unit much more than he does Dunn.
  • Bjelica’s performance overshadowed a potential “Revenge Game” by former Wolf and Bikram Yoga enthusiast Kosta Kouros who tallied 14 points on 75% shooting and added 11 boards (only his second double-double of the season).
  • Remember the name Skal Labissiere. At 6’11” and 225 pounds, the 20-year old from Haiti can flat out play (think Anthony Randolph, but actually competent).
  • Cole Aldrich played one minute last night for every tooth he has had knocked out.