A little over one week ago, the professionals in Las Vegas, NV had the win total for the Minnesota Timberwolves set at 35.5. Fast forward seven short days, and that total may need to be adjusted to 81.5.
Led by Andrew Wiggins (YES YOU ARE READING THAT CORRECTLY), the Wolves put on a 4th quarter offensive clinic, outscoring the pesky Miami Heat 39-25 in the final frame to secure the victory and push their early season record to 3-0.
Coming off an overtime win against the Milwaukee Bucks and without Admiral Paternity Leave, the Heat had every reason to mail in the second night of an early back-to-back, but Miami did what they’ve always done under head coach Erik Spoelstra — grind out possessions on defense and have a “next man up” mentality on the offensive end.
That next man up? It just so happened to be Nunn other than Kendrick himself, an undrafted flame-thrower out of Oakland University (the other, much colder Oakland University). The 6’2” shooting guard who is built like Eric Bledsoe but shoots like Steph Curry on steroids put on an absolute show for the third straight game, pouring in 25 points on 53% shooting, including 5-of-9 from three-point range. Nunn’s performance on Sunday brought his season total for points to 67, which set a Heat franchise record for total points in the first three games for a rookie (Nunn also dropped a 40-piece on the Houston Rockets in the final game of the preseason).
Young Kendick’s shooting barrage almost single-handedly stole the game for the Heat in the third quarter, but it was Andrew Wiggins who would have Nunn of it, pouring in SIXTEEN STRAIGHT POINTS in the fourth quarter (please ignore that random free throw from KAT at the 3:57 mark) to push the Wolves record to an unblemished 3-0. Don’t believe me? Just watch:
If you weren’t aware, it’s been challenging as of late living on Wiggins Island — the housing market has crashed, it’s damn near impossible to import anything other than the occasional bucket, and the president’s approval rating has hit an all-time low.
AND YET... over these first three games of the 2019-2020 season, it does truly feel like a much-needed warm front is slowly making its way towards this place that some of us call home. Am I guilty of still being an “Andrew Wiggins Believer” despite the fact that he will NEVER live up to his 5-year/$147 million dollar contract? Absolutely. But until the New Wolves Order can finally free themselves from the binds of financial mistakes made by past regimes, there is little I can personally do other than continue to believe that THIS regime and THIS coaching staff has what it takes to get the most out of the man formerly known as Maple Jordan, even if that “most” is lightyears away from what we originally had expected.
As for the Wolves true franchise centerpiece, KAT was his usual dominant self during the first twelve minutes of the game, toying with opponents on the offensive end while also showing flashes of his improved rim protection on defense:
However, Karl’s early season rampage was somewhat halted after that (albeit for just a couple of quarters), as Spo and the Heat turned to a smaller lineup and sent doubles any and every time KAT sniffed the ball, resulting in Towns scoring only 8 more points in the final three quarters.
But again, none of that matters because it was ANDREW (REDACTED) WIGGINS who the Wolves relied on late Sunday, despite getting reprimanded earlier in the evening for his poor decision making:
Thought I saw this in game but Saunders confirmed it: Wiggins was benched briefly in 2nd because Ryan didn’t like some of his decisions. But Ryan raves about him hanging in there and coming through later in the game— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) October 28, 2019
After the game, Ryan discussed the results of pulling Andrew earlier in the game, saying:
“Andrew, there’s a lot that can be made of relationships and I know some people may roll their eyes at the relationship aspect of coaching and things with players, but it goes both ways. Like taking Andrew out and him being able to refocus with things, he didn’t hang his head by any means, we got him back in there pretty quick and he ended up putting together a nice stat line and playing almost 36 minutes. So, I mean that’s something I credit him for a lot.”
Wiggins confirmed that Ryan’s message, at least for one night, was well-received:
Saunders pulled Wiggins b/c he didn't like Wiggins' decision making in the 1st half. Wiggins' reaction? "I made a lot of dumb decisions and I had told him ... If I do something wrong, make me pay for it. He did that, and I feel like that woke me up. I’ve got to be better."— Chris Hine (@ChristopherHine) October 28, 2019
In the locker room post game, Wiggins talked about his fourth quarter performance, adding “It felt good. My first three-pointers made were in the last moments. I was missing a lot of shots, but my teammates kept supporting me, saying ‘shoot that same shot, it’s going to fall, it’s going to fall when it needs to fall,’ and it did.” As for the insane reaction from his teammates after hitting his final shot, Wiggins went on to say, “It was a great feeling. We all know how hard we’ve been working, so we deserve these type of wins, especially in front of our home crowd.”
If you're still dubious that Andrew Wiggins has truly turned over a new leaf, I can’t blame you. Despite his dominant fourth quarter scoring performance, Wiggs failed yet again to tally an assist, steal, or block for what feels like the 100th time in his career. HOWEVER, if you remain even remotely optimistic like I do, the graphic below is the surest (and most convincing) sign yet that maybe, JUST MAYBE, a more modern, well-rounded Andrew Wiggins lies somewhere buried within that Gumby-like 6’8” frame:
Full Game Highlights
- With his 23-point performance Sunday night, KAT has now scored 96 points through the first three games of the season, passing Kevin Love who scored 89 points in the first three games of the 2013-14 season. Kevin Garnett holds the franchise record with 100 points in the first three games of the 1999-00 season.
- Wiggins’ 16 fourth quarter points are the third-most points scored in the final 6:00 minutes of the game in Timberwolves history. He trails James Robinson with 23 points at Cleveland on Dec. 30, 1996 and Kevin Love who scored 21 points at Atlanta on Feb. 1, 2014 (h/t Timberwolves PR).
- Lost in all the Wiggins commotion was Robert Covington, who brought down a season-high 10 rebounds, which is one more than his total in the first game of the season against Brooklyn (9). In the entire 2018-2019 season, RoCo managed to grab double-digit rebounds only twice.
- Shabazz Napier, known to some as “Garage Sale Tyus Jones” added in 12 points, 2 assists, 2 steals, and a much-needed 6-for-6 from the free throw line. While he may not be from the area or possess the pure upside of the Apple Valley alum, Napier is quickly growing on me due to his veteran leadership, on-court demeanor, and ability to get a bucket when the second unit is stalling.
- With Sunday night’s 116-109 victory over Miami, the Timberwolves have now won four-straight home openers and also the last 7-of-8.
- Last thought — if you’re selling your Jarrett Culver stock, please DM me because I am VERY interested in adding more to my portfolio.