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Wolves 138, Grizzlies 95: Utter Domination

Minnesota picked up their third wire-to-wire win of the season, and their second in a row, by thrashing the Grizz on Saturday.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota Timberwolves Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The story of David and Goliath is compelling for a number of reasons, but particularly because of how cleanly little David dispatched his gargantuan opponent. A well-placed stone to the forehead and one swift sword strike later and Israel had defeated an opponent that was thought to be overwhelming and unbeatable.

While, today, the ancient biblical story is often utilized as an allegory to explain how one shouldn’t overlook an underdog, it’s also an example of how well-thought strategy and exploiting an opponent’s weaknesses by focusing on one’s strengths can lead to victory.

The latter is exactly what the Minnesota Timberwolves did to the Memphis Grizzlies Saturday evening as they brutalized their opponent on the way to a 138-95 victory.

D’Angelo Russell (28 points, five assists), Anthony Edwards (23 points, 5-for-6 from three), and Karl-Anthony Towns (21 points, five boards) put together one of their strongest collective performances of the season, guiding their team to a third straight win to improve the Wolves’ record to 7-9.

“Those three guys — Ant, KAT, DLo — are really figuring it out,” Wolves coach Chris Finch told the media following the win. “I think there’s more trust in the ball movement, that it’ll come back to them. They’re not trying to take everything on all by themselves. I never thought it was an issue of someone being selfish. It’s just guys were trying to jumpstart their game and they were doing it with a lot of isolation. Now we’re doing it with ball movement.”

But if Minnesota’s ball movement was the key for picking up the win, well, then their defensive effort — led by Patrick Beverley, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Naz Reid, in particular — was the hand putting it in the lock.

“The defense has been really strong,” Finch said. “We set the tone. When you guard like that, it gives you confidence to play with a little bit more freedom on offense. Not so much pressure on every shot.”

Beverley, Vanderbilt, and Reid combined for six steals, five blocks, and nine defensive rebounds on the night while holding Memphis’s key offensive cogs — the electric Ja Morant and up-and-coming Jaren Jackson Jr. — to shoot a combined 5-for-19 with 23 points.

Finch spoke glowingly of Vanderbilt, in particular, and his development since arriving in Minnesota after the game.

“When you watch him play, if we’re playing pick-up ball or summer or preseason when there’s not a ton of structure, he’ll handle, push, pass, and create, similar to, like, a Draymond Green style. Probably not quite as polished as Draymond at handling, but he has a feel for it,” Finch told Canis Hoopus. “We don’t really necessarily need him to do that so much, but he’s done a great job of just like — the first part of improving as a player is knowing who you are and maximizing that. That speaks to him immensely. He knows who he is and he maximizes that. And then he grows from there and then the little things start coming on the back of that.”

Vanderbilt provided illuminating quotes when asked for his perspective, speaking extensively on his penchant for watching his teammates’ misses in practice to pick up on where their shots most frequently carom as well as his dedication to film study. He also believes that the game is starting to slow down for him.

“It’s a mixture of both. Like I said, studying and watching film, that’s helped a lot. And also, just playing. Like, the more you play basketball, play games, you’re just going to naturally get better at it. Get more comfortable with it,” Vanderbilt told Canis Hoopus. “Especially for me. Having some years where, during my development, I wasn’t able to play basketball. At this stage, kinda, in a sense, catching up and just getting more comfortable. It just comes with time. Like I said, last year was pretty much my first year actually playing. I’ve been in the league four years, but that was my first year actually being in the rotation and playing meaningful minutes. I feel like each game, just getting more comfortable, get more feel for the game, and, even though the game’s slowing down, still playing with my pace. Like the coaches says, play fast, but not in a hurry. That’s been how I approach the game and it’s been slowing down for me.”

The Wolves are back in action on Monday when they will look to extend their winning streak against the hapless New Orleans Pelicans (3-15). Tip is slated for 7 p.m. in Louisiana.