The Minnesota Timberwolves came into their second preseason contest of the year riding high after an impressive showing (starters specifically) against the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night. Unfortunately, this game didn’t have quite the same vibe as the first, but it’s still the preseason and Minnesota did end up pulling out the win.
The Timberwolves played with intensity. At times (too many, in fact) the offense sputtered against a Denver defense that was smothering every Wolves player that touched the basketball. Still, the offense managed to answers multiple runs from Denver with mini-spurts of their own, which always kept them within striking distance.
Defensively, the Timberwolves did more good than bad and for the most part put up a solid showing on that side of the ball. Anthony Edwards continued his newfound impressive on-ball and off-ball tenacity by keeping guys in front of him, dodging screens, and jumping passing lanes.
Ant deep in his pic.twitter.com/A0UBTzZaUO— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) October 9, 2021
It hasn’t been perfect but its leaps and bounds better than what we saw from him as a rookie. Each game he shows us this version of him is one game closer to him being a steady defensive player for this team. I cannot overstate what type of impact that could have on this team.
Karl-Anthony Towns came to play tonight against the reigning MVP. While it wasn’t his best and cleanest game, you could tell the effort and intensity was oozing out of him when matched up on Nikola Jokic. KAT lives for games against top opposing centers and tonight was no different. He didn’t back down and held his own in 22 minutes, most of which came opposite Jokic. Towns finished with 12 points on 5/9 shooting and held Jokic to 10 points on 3/10 shooting from the floor.
The man of the night ended up being Jaylen Nowell. Nowell played a total of 13 minutes, all in the 4th quarter and overtime. The third-year guard hit a pivotal and-one three with :03 left to give the Wolves life and force overtime.
FOUR POINT PLAY pic.twitter.com/inKhLAItgQ— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) October 9, 2021
Then Nowell finished the game strong on both ends of the floor, coming up with a big steal and hitting the game winning shot.
Wolves final 3 possessions in OT...— Alan Horton (@WolvesRadio) October 9, 2021
1:16 - J.Nowell steal
1:14 - J.Nowell layup
:49 - J.Nowell 12' fadeaway
:10 - J.Nowell 13' fadeaway (pictured)
Wolves 114 Nuggets 112 pic.twitter.com/zzsD3JzdoS
Jaylen Nowell's fadeaway seals the overtime win for the @Timberwolves! pic.twitter.com/0Lv8pnUPlq— NBA (@NBA) October 9, 2021
Overall, Jaylen ended the night with 12 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists while playing some of the best defense I’ve ever seen him play. If he keeps putting up performances like tonight’s Chris Finch will need to find a way to squeeze him into the nightly rotation.
Josh Okogie was another bright spot for the Timberwolves as he continued his impressive preseason play. His defense is as good as ever and he looks a bit more polished offensively, even though his jumper was not falling. It’ll be interesting to see if Finch goes back to Okogie in the starting lineup after starting Vanderbilt over him tonight.
The best news of the night (and perhaps the most meaningless) is that the Timberwolves came away with another preseason win to remain undefeated as they hand Denver their third loss in as many tries.
There was a lot of things that did not go well for the Wolves tonight. For starters, the team shot horridly from three. They ended the game 10/40 from deep as the starters struggled to get anything to fall to start the game.
On the other side of the ball, despite solid defensive positioning on a number of possessions, Denver made tough shots their forte and canned them with ease. They eventually cooled off and finished the night 21/58 from three.
However, there was one Denver Nugget who was seemingly incapable of cooling off. Rookie Na’Shon “Bones” Hyland was on a tear for the Nuggets as he shot 6/12 from three and opened the flood gates more than once on the Wolves. He finished the night with 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists.
D’Angelo Russell followed up his fantastic performance from Monday with an absolute dud. If it weren’t for making back to back threes and a few nice passes to set up teammates, he wouldn’t get any love from fans tonight. Although, he did continue to give improved effort on defense again, which is about the most we would ask of him at this point.
But Karl and D’Lo did give us this gem, so I’ll credit them for that.
that's clean @KarlTowns x @Dloading pic.twitter.com/5X5NCr4MsA— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) October 9, 2021
I hate to say anything negative about Ant, and perhaps much of what I’m about to say isn’t even his fault, but he needs more touches and needs to be more aggressive.
I asked KAT postgame about Ant’s lack of aggression this preaseason and what the team can do to get Ant involved earlier and more often.
“Don’t worry about it, it’s preseason. He’s doing what he is supposed to. He’s working on his game, he’s working on getting everyone involved, he’s working on his playmaking... He’s ramping up just like we all are. We all ain’t the crispest we could be, we all ain’t as sharp as we could be but Ant is doing an amazing job... He’s thinking the game now and I think last year he was just playing, now he’s actually thinking the game... Ant’s a walking 25 a night, so I’m not too worried about that.”
It’s nice to think that the Wolves had a rough night offensively and could rely on their defense to keep them in the game and provide them a chance to win. Of course it’s preseason and we will see how it translates to the regular season, but tonight was another W for the good guys.