With a solid wire to wire effort, the Wolves defeat the Cavs in Cleveland by a final of 102-95. The Wolves jumped out to a lead early and never looked back.
As has been the case recently, Karl-Anthony Towns and Robert Covington led the Wolves to victory on both ends of the floor. KAT finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Covington added 24 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals.
What was even more impressive about Covington’s night was his efficiency. He made 8 of his 12 field goal attempts, including 4 of 7 from beyond the arc and making 4 of his 5 free throw attempts.
It was great to see Covington find his shot again tonight after his 1 for 18 performance on Saturday. But as is usually the case, his defense stood out even more than his offense. He was disruptive the entire night, and made things difficult for whichever poor soul he was matched up on. His ability to anticipate where a play is going and not allow his man to get to the spot he wants is amazing to watch, as is his non-stop effort and ability to break up plays. It’s no accident that the Wolves are playing their best defense is recent memory since he’s arrived.
The bench was another bright spot tonight. Jim Petersen noted it on the broadcast, and he was right by saying how much better the ball moves when the bench unit is in the game. This group usually includes Covington as the lone starter when all four reserves in the game. They were really the difference tonight, with no bench player finishing with a plus-minus below +5.
Derrick Rose and Dario Saric were the real catalysts on that end. Rose contributed 13 points and 4 assists while Saric added 9 points and 6 boards. The ball movement is evident when both Saric and Tyus Jones are in the game specifically, and the flow with those guys in the game was noticeably different. Rose joined the closing unit in place of Andrew Wiggins again tonight, and scored most of his points in the fourth quarter as the Wolves worked to hold off the Cavs.
Another real difference in the game came from winning the turnover battle and holding steady on the boards. The Wolves forced 16 turnovers while only turning the ball over 8 times themselves. Additionally, they only lost the rebounding battle by one rebound. If the Wolves are able to win the turnover battle by 8, they’ll be in great position to win every night.
The rebounding was the big factor going into the game. The biggest worry about this game was Tristan Thompson dominating on the offensive glass. The Cavs big man did end up with 4 offensive rebounds, but they managed to contain the rest of the Cavs.
All in all, this is the kind of game that the Wolves have to win. They’re now just one game below .500 and back in the thick of the playoff race. It sounds easy, but simply beating these bad teams will do wonders towards their playoff positioning. Win all the games you should, and steal a few against the higher tier teams in the NBA. That’s the recipe for working your way back into the playoff picture.
It wasn’t the prettiest game the Wolves have ever played, but playing good defense and winning the turnover battle is a formula I could get used to.