What a thrilling comeback win for the Wolves on another entertaining Throwback Night at Target Center. Wait a second. A VICTORY POWERED BY DEFENSE? This can’t be reality, can it? Holding the Rockets to 29 second half points, and only nine in the fourth, is insane to think about. “We came out with an edge and intensity [in the second half],” said Karl-Anthony Towns. There was an incredible energy shift after the halftime break. The impressive win marks the Wolves’ largest comeback of the season (19). After trailing by 16 with 9:24 in the third quarter, they rattled off a 34-14 run to take a four-point lead heading into the fourth. They are now 10-4 when leading heading into the final frame this season, including 8-0 at Target Center. This was also the largest comeback since erasing a 21-point, first-half deficit to beat the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 13, 2016 at the United Center. The 29 points are the fewest allowed by the Wolves in a second half since the Clippers scored 27 on Feb. 1, 2008. Houston’s nine points in the fourth are the fewest allowed in a fourth by the franchise since Portland scored nine on Dec. 14, 2002.
Time to dive into the postgame comments. Let’s go through some quotes and notes together and see if we can learn anything new.
Tom Thibodeau on the second half:
“One thing about the Rockets is they’ve been playing great,” said Thibs. “Their past two games, they’re getting people back so we knew that they would put a lot of pressure on us and they did. You just have to keep going. Against a team like that, you can’t relax, can’t let your guard down. You have to fly around, you have to do more than one thing. I thought in the second half, our effort was a lot greater. We had everyone doing more than one thing. A lot of guys stepped up and played well. I thought the rebounding was huge for us and then I thought the ball pressure was really good. Creating some turnovers was a big factor as well.”
Notes: Wolves finished with 18 stocks (11 steals and seven blocks) and outrebounded the Rockets, 42-34.
Thibs on the 32-20 third quarter:
“I thought the defense is what got us going and it got us into the open floor. The third quarter in particular, when Jeff [Teague] hit those threes, it was basically off of our defense and guys were making plays. We were sharing the ball better and I thought Karl played a terrific game. He gets a lot of attention from them but I thought he was making the right play all night.”
Notes: Karl-Anthony Towns had his 13th double-double with a team-high 24 points and 11 rebounds. He also matched his season-high for steals with three (Nov. 5 at L.A. Clippers). Tyus Jones also had three steals, with all of them coming in a crucial fourth quarter. Swipe artist!
Thibs on Wiggins breaking out of his offensive slump:
“The past couple games, I think he’s picked it up and he’s finding his rhythm again,” said Thibs. “He’s driving the ball a lot more aggressively which I think is very important. He’s such a gifted scorer and we want him to use all of his abilities. Obviously, he’s shooting the three better. But when he puts it on the floor and attacks the basket, his athleticism is special and when he does that, there’s going to be and-ones and easy buckets for him. It just makes us a different team. We just have to keep him aggressive.”
Thibs on Wiggins’ defense:
“He did a lot of things. They put a lot of pressure on you. [Clint] Capela’s great rolling to the basket. The two guards, everyone knows how good they are. You have to contain the ball as best you can. You’ve got to protect the basket. And then you’ve got to get out. I thought Wigs had a lot of plays in which he was at the rim protecting and then firing out and flying around and covering the line. I think when he has that type of energy, it just carries over. He just keeps moving. That’s the way we need him to play.”
Karl-Anthony Towns on the second half:
“I think that defensively we just came out with an edge. We came out in the second half, came in here and made it clear that we’ve got to change things. We’ve got to be the team that wants it more and I think everyone in the building saw that. We came out with an edge to us and a fire to us to get back in the game. The one thing I’m real proud of us is that not only did we come in here and talk about it, we came and did it. We came out, did what we said we were going to do and not only did we do that, but when we got back in the game we didn’t let our foot off the gas, we kept going.”
KAT on Covington’s defense:
“Robert makes plays. That’s what he does. He’s First Team All-Defense for a reason. He does things that a lot of people in this league can’t do, not from a physical standpoint, just an IQ standpoint. He has that itch for the ball, especially on the defensive end.”
On the energy among the team during their run in the second half:
“We’ve got so much love for each other. We just kept trying to tell each other, we’re going to grind ourselves back into this game and when we did it, we’re just coming back to the huddles every single time about don’t let them score, don’t let anyone score. If they’re going to make a bucket, make them have to hit something that’s tremendously hard. We did a great job in those minutes making everything very difficult. Realizing the mistakes we made through the game and capitalizing on them in the fourth.”
Robert Covington on the discussion in the locker room at halftime:
“We already knew what our game plan was that we had to fix before [Thibodeau] came in. We were talking about it. They got a lot of transition threes, they had more rebounds than us, and also Capela was having too good of a game and we had to shut that down. He was running and they were finding him in transition, so we talked about that and then our coverages and everything were a lot better in the second half.”
Notes: RoCo finished with 13 points, six rebounds, three assists, and two steals. This was his ninth game with two or more steals as a Wolf.
G L O V I N G T O N— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) December 4, 2018
W A N T S
T H E
W I N
M O R E
T H A N
T H E Y
Covington doesn’t really love the nickname Glovington, sadly. I still think it’s cool but understand why he feels like it’s sort of off limits with Gary Payton being The Glove. It fits though. Maybe I’ll just keep forcing it upon everyone, like STOCKS, until it truly takes off.
RoCo on the defensive shift in the second half:
“It just shows how good we can be defensively. We really locked in everyone. Everyone that stepped on the court was really engaged in the second half defensively and that’s what allowed us to hold him to that. We were moving the ball really well, flying all over the place and guys just found the open man. We said to lock in our defense and to hold them to that in the second half, just a testament to how good we were playing defensively.”
Rockets Head Coach Mike D’Antoni on losing the lead in the second half:
“We weren’t playing with any kind of spirit or energy. Things were going great the first half, then at the half we let them come back, when they hit that three. I just thought the whole second half we didn’t play with the right type of spirit. Maybe it’s the third game in four nights. I’ll mark it down as getting tired, getting an excuse but we just gotta ... we’re off fighting the refs. We can’t have nights like this where we lose because of our joy or spirit out on the floor. We’ll come back, we’ll fight it, and get ready for the next game.”
On the fourth quarter being because of the Timberwolves defense or lack of spirit:
“I mean, I’ll have to look at it. I thought we had a lot of wide open shots we just missed. We gotta knock ‘em down. I don’t know how many, I think 3-22 in the second half. I thought they were good shots. We just missed ‘em.”
Note: Cousin Sam messaged me this after the game: “Wolves were dodging bullets Matrix style in the second half.”
Chris Paul on so much changing toward the end of the game:
“It all started with that turnover I got in the second quarter and then before the half they banked in a three. It was 14 instead of 17. It was a crazy third quarter, they outscored us by what like 17. I mean, it’s crazy, crazy we let them get going. They started out hitting seven threes in the third quarter. A team like that who usually plays inside they started playing inside-out.”
Note: KAT and Dario playing together opens up an entire new world of possibilities. These two need to get more minutes at the 4 and 5 with each other. The way they spaced the floor in the third quarter put tremendous pressure on the Rockets’ defense and flipped the game upside down. Saric deserves tons of credit for the ways he has defended as well. He can wall up. He’s defending without fouling. Thibs said his “toughness” was essential about a million times.
On getting open threes when James Harden is being double-teamed:
“Yeah, we gotta make ‘em and I’m not sure how many turnovers I had but I definitely gotta play better. It can’t be all on him to make every play—you know when they trap, we gotta make the right plays out of it. We gotta defend and obviously our offense will help us.”
Time for some videos of Towns, who has (love you, Ricky) completely changed his face:
“Like Luol said, we didn’t just come and talk about it. We came and did it.” - KAT on coming out with an edge and fire on the defensive end in the second half. His postgame comments after the Wolves’ thrilling comeback win over Houston: pic.twitter.com/rNsLJNYWAp— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) December 4, 2018
I asked Towns if he could remember a comeback win powered by defense in his Wolves career. “I’d lie to you if I said I did.” pic.twitter.com/vNCzqtC1qJ— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) December 4, 2018
Wiggins said he felt like he’s back. Towns said AW was energized and confident. “I don’t know what [Wiggins] had for breakfast—if it was Wheaties, Cheerios, or whatever the case may be—but he needs to keep eating that.” +more (“other than short Jeff, we’re pretty long.”) pic.twitter.com/SJZtwFHPvn— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) December 4, 2018
Regarding Towns’ comments on Wiggins: This has always been the issue with Wigs. The flashes never last. How can the team get him up for every game like this? How can they inspire and support and guide him in ways that make performances like he had on Monday night not feel like outliers? He really played hard both ways, and made smart decisions. What made him operate with this type of confidence today? Figuring out what truly makes Andrew Wiggins tick, and more importantly how to harness that, is one of the most critical questions in Wolvesdom.
I’m in Love with the RoCo
Do I really need to say anything else in this space? Let’s hear straight from the Duke of Deflections:
Robert Covington: “I lead by example and it’s very contagious.” + more pic.twitter.com/dbGkq9xDKN— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) December 4, 2018
We had quote time earlier. Now it’s Tyus Jones’ stage to shine bright on. His defense, and anticipation, was electric in limited minutes tonight. Giving him only 12 minutes makes me shake my head in disgust.
Watch the video. Does this stuff matter? Many people like to belittle these interactions. I think they matter a lot more than we could ever truly know.
Tolliver in Okogie’s ear during the timeout. Deng talking to KAT. pic.twitter.com/gRJnIg4oal— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) December 4, 2018
Dad Recap + Tweets I liked
Should I quit blogging or nah? I mean, with this type of thorough dad analysis at your finger tips, you probably don’t need me.
Best recap in sports history.— Slowbreak (@AverageJer) December 4, 2018
I checked 33 times in a row and this data is correct:
Any positive RoCo tweet, at this rate, is going to be an extremely solid tweet and...
Have I told you how much fun the Timberwolves are lately?— Cody Sharrett (@CodySharrett) December 4, 2018
Have I tweeted that before? pic.twitter.com/5w5Opp31US
Perhaps you should put Coolio on the payroll?
Before Coolio's performance, the Wolves were outscored 62-48. After Coolio, the Wolves outscored the Rockets 55-29.— Tyler Mason (@tylermason21) December 4, 2018
Didn’t General Soreness say something about needing him on the battlefield to win the war? I can’t remember these things. Someone please remind me in the comments.
Thanks for reading another Wolf Nightcap. If you need me, I’ll be watching this on a loop: