In a season marred by drama and negativity, tonight was a moment of joy for everyone involved.
As nauseating as it has been to see all of the “Vintage D-Rose!!” tweets every time Derrick Rose made a reverse layup over the past two years, we actually got vintage Derrick Rose tonight.
It came early and often from Rose, who finished with 50 points and 6 assists while filling in for the injured Jeff Teague. Rose set a career-high 8 years after he won MVP in 2010-11, which is undoubtedly one of the most astonishing things we will see this entire year across the NBA.
It has been pretty easy to be a Rose detractor over the past few years, and for good reason. He hasn’t been very good. Tonight, however, Derrick Rose was quite simply the man. It was awesome to see the Timberwolves crowd rain “M-V-P” chants on him. There were bright spots elsewhere for the Wolves, but the night was all about D-Rose. He made over half of his 7 three-point attempts and consistently attacked Rudy Gobert at the basket, and won many of those battles. He scored from all three levels, and was crafty around the basket with a myriad of finishes and floaters.
He took over town the stretch, making big shot after big shot to keep the Wolves afloat and eventually sink the Jazz. Each time it looked like Utah was going to take the game back over, Rose came back with a momentum killing jumper or drive to the basket. It was the kind of performance that nobody could have predicted.
While Rose was the story of the night, Karl-Anthony Towns looked like his old self again tonight, which is awesome to see. Towns finished with an efficient 28 points on 9-17 from the field including 4-9 from deep. His shooting ability was especially important tonight as it dragged the best rim protector in the NBA (Gobert) away from the rim which opened lanes for Rose and the rest of the Wolves squad. Towns also looked pretty solid defensively tonight, which has been an encouraging theme so far in the season. He had a hard time containing Gobert on lobs in the pick and roll, but everyone in the league struggles with that.
The rest of the Wolves roster played very inspired basketball as well, and it was nice to see them play well without Butler. Josh Okogie did a great job on Donovan Mitchell, especially in the first half when he held Mitchell to 2-11 from the field. His energy seemed to be contagious again, which is something that has made him a fan favorite immediately. Okogie’s ceiling will ultimately be decided by how he develops offensively, but his defense will make him a solid player for the Wolves for years to come.
Anthony Tolliver was limited offensively, but played stellar defense. He was in the right spots nearly all the time, and was probably on the wrong end of a couple block/charge calls that looked like they should’ve gone his way. It has become clear that he is the calming voice for the second unit that should keep that group in line night in and night out.
Andrew Wiggins also had a solid night, going 8-17 from the field for his 19 points. What was most encouraging with Wiggins was that he looked comfortable as an off-ball offensive player, making 3 of his 5 three point-attempts. Their were still a few long two’s that we’d certainly like him to take less of, but the three-point shooting is something we hope to see continue throughout the season.
One other tidbit that we got tonight was our first look at James Nunnally, and while he didn’t do anything too wild he certainly looked the part of an NBA player. The book on him was that he was a spot-up three-point shooter, but he scored tonight with a crafty bucket around the rim.
There were a lot of positives tonight for Minnesota, and it feels so great to be able to enjoy a game the way we were tonight. The Wolves core looked solid against a good time, and the Wolves showed that they can, in fact, win without Jimmy Butler on the floor.
Was tonight, in a vacuum, a repeatable occurrence? No, but we should still enjoy a throwback performance from a former MVP in a win against one of the top teams in the Western Conference. It was a performance that everyone around the league will appreciate. For one night, Derrick Rose’s critics will be quiet, and his performance carried Minnesota to their best win of the season.