Did Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch believe it was the most complete game of the season for his young pack?
“I believe so, on both sides of the ball. The shooting, the passing, the rhythm, the defense, the rebounding, the turnover numbers were down,” Finch said after the game. “Our focus was there all night long.”
“We just had an approach that it was just a must win, both of them. We wanted to take advantage of this home stand, so guys locked in from the jump,” Minnesota starting power forward Jarred Vanderbilt said. “We dropped a couple games that we felt like we should’ve won, so we wanted to take advantage of this home stand and just came out focused and ready to play, and just treating every game like it’s a must win.”
Karl-Anthony Towns crafted a masterpiece for all to see on the Target Center floor, brushing together 25 points — which came in a way that drew attention to hyper-versatile offensive skillset — 12 rebounds, five assists, and one (1) foul in a team-high 38 minutes of play.
19 PTS on 8 shots in the first half pic.twitter.com/9R8hn2HXHn— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) November 19, 2021
“Whenever we needed a big bucket, they were tightening up the game, he seemed to steady the ship,” Chris Finch said postgame. “He continues to play some of the most efficient basketball in the league right now from an offensive point of view.”
San Antonio matched up a center on Towns defensively for most of the night and the newly-minted 26-year-old made the Spurs pay consistently. He did an excellent job switching up his attack angles, where he positioned himself on the floor, whether or not he faced up, and when to let the 3s fly.
And, of course, made the right reads when the Spurs came with a soft baseline x and helped get every single player he shared the court with in a rhythm.
One of those players is Malik Beasley, who had one of his best offensive games of the season as a result of being heavily involved in offensive actions to free him up for 11 3-point attempts, of which he connected on five. His teammates are making it a point to find him whenever he’s open and he has the full support of a coach who continually encourages shooters to shoot.
“It’s always good to see shots go in. It’s always gonna even out. I haven’t been shooting the ball well but at the end of the day it’s gonna even out because I put in a lot of work,” Beasley said postgame. “My teammates been getting me the ball in the flow so it’s easier to not worry about missing or anything. The main thing is I’m starting to focus more on defense and let the game come to myself. It’s helping a lot.”
Malik for 3⃣— Bally Sports North (@BallySportsNOR) November 19, 2021
Beasley has 6 points as Minnesota looks to add on to their lead. pic.twitter.com/MaAwwCFr0G
The most promising sign for Beasley’s game on both ends of the floor is that his confidence is all the way back and he knows where he has to be at all times. It helps when you can play off of someone as dangerously versatile as Towns is.
“It makes my job way easier. I can go set a screen for him in transition, he can set a screen for me,” Beasley — one of the game’s elite transition players — said. “If [Towns is] in the post, I know to get into his vision so he can pass the ball if he needs to.”
On the other end, Beasley is seeing the game like he hasn’t in the past.
“Watching film, making sure I’m the low man. Making sure, what Vando said, that we close out to the right guy, knowing my personnel, things like that,” Beasley added.
A confident and aware Malik Beasley is the best version of him and will only progress towards his shooting means as the season goes along; the best is yet to come.
Jaden McDaniels put his offensive potential on display as well tonight in a much-needed 13-point performance, behind three 3-pointers on five triggers, and three offensive rebounds against a thin Spurs front court.
I asked Chris Finch after the game what he attributed that success to.
“Moving to the second unit. Little bit more opportunities out there. The ball has also been moving better,” Finch said. “He’s been in a lot of foul trouble, so he’s never been able to get into a rhythm. He’s way more sure of the things he’s been doing.”
The sophomore out of Washington certainly looked sure of himself. He didn’t hesitate on any of his five 3-point attempts and was decisive in attacking the rim off the catch, too. The athletic, 6-foot-10 McDaniels can be a powerful weapon when attacking a spread floor as someone who can not only dunk over and finish around defenders, but also make defenses pay for collapsing in on him too hard in the paint, as well as cutting off of Towns.
“He’s back to finding some really good cuts off KAT. That’s something that he did a lot last year,” Finch said, acknowledging that many of those have come in lineups mixed with starters and bench players. “He’s just a product of when we’re going to play better, he’s going to play better. He’s just a really, really good glue guy for what we’re doing out there and that’s certainly not a knock on him. He just fills a lot of gaps.”
After receiving treatment for more than an hour after last night’s win over the Kings, Patrick Beverley was ready to go and filled gaps again for a young team who feeds off of his veteran presence and defensive acumen. Beverley turned in eight points, seven assists to one turnover, and made big defensive plays in key moments to reignite the crowd after an early 20-point Wolves lead slipped to single digits at moments in the second and third quarters.
PatBev. Clamps. pic.twitter.com/Khm4mI4OiU— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) November 19, 2021
That offensive flow that got nearly every Wolves rotation player into a nice rhythm began in the first four minutes, at the end of which Minnesota held a 21-3 lead. Four of the Wolves’ starters scored as a result of running the Spurs off the line, getting in transition, and sharing the ball with each other naturally.
“The ball will tell you what to do, the energy of the ball, whether we’re supposed to be in a swing, swing pass or you’re supposed to shoot it when you catch it or drive and then make a play for someone else,” Vanderbilt said. “With the way we’re playing like that, I feel like we can match up with any team in the league.”
The Wolves next matchup will be a good barometer in determining whether Vanderbilt is right, or if he and his teammates have more soul-searching to do.
Minnesota will look to make it three in a row against when they host the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night. Chris Finch’s squad will be hungry to avenge a disappointing loss in Memphis a few weeks ago, where they blew a 16-point lead with 7:30 left to play.