On Wednesday night, in front of a packed Target Center, the Minnesota Timberwolves took on the Miami Heat as they looked to improve to .500 on the season and extend their winning streak to five games.
And they did just that.
After coming out of the gates aggressively, Karl-Anthony Towns picked up his 3rd foul at the 7:28 mark in the first quarter. This sparked Chris Finch to pull Towns from the game. Towns ultimately finished the half on the bench with the Wolves heading to the locker room down by 8, 62-54.
In his post game press conference, Chris Finch said he would have probably put Towns back in the game had the Heat started to pull away, but since their lead was kept around 10 he decided to weather the storm and ride with backup center options instead of risking a fourth foul on Towns.
That proved to pay dividends as Towns played the entire 24 minutes of the second half. While his efforts won’t pop off the age in the box score tonight, he certainly was a useful piece in this win down the stretch. The biggest and brightest part of his night came in the fourth quarter where he had back-to-back stout defensive efforts against Bam Adebayo in the post that led to back-to-back threes for D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley on the other end.
Minnesota dominated the 3rd frame and left the frame with a 4 point lead, after handling their business and outscoring Miami by 12. Then, the Wolves carried over that effort and intensity into the final 12 minutes of play and outscored the Heat by 8 to finish the night with a 12 point advantage in the scoring column.
The obvious hero of the night was Anthony Edwards, who ended the night with 33 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 assists in a game high 43 minutes.
“He took over the game. Simple as that. He took over”, said D’Angelo Russell of Anthony Edwards postgame.
It is true, Edwards did take over the game. He was pulling down rebounds, putting his teammates in good positions to scores, and scoring whenever and however he wanted to. The second year player also had some big defensive stops and steals that helped Minnesota keep the game in check in the early going and also to help pull away late.
Anthony Edwards, who just finished his 90th NBA game and it is clear that he knows when to take over a game and when his team needs him. It seemed that every time the Wolves needed a bucket in the first half, Edwards provided one. That is something that Minnesota has sorely needed for years. They have it now.
Plus, Ant had the dunk of the year robbed from him due to a poorly called charge.
Anthony Edwards with the best dunk that doesn't count of the season pic.twitter.com/KIsi2l5M2D— Billy Heyen (@BillyHeyen) November 25, 2021
Postgame, Edwards gave his thoughts on the charge call.
“Zebras man, I don’t know. If I’m refereeing that game and you dunk on someone like that, I’m not calling a charge... I don’t care if he was three feet above the circle, I’m not calling the charge.”
It is a shame that such a beautiful play will not go down in the history books, but I’m sure Edwards is happy to get the win regardless of if the dunk counted.
D’Angelo Russell, though he was giving credit to his running mate, had himself a much needed solid night. Russell ended with 20 points, shooting 4-10 from three and 2-4 from two.
The other big factor that kept Minnesota afloat was Malik Beasley. The Timberwolves have been waiting for him to bust out of his slump to start the season. It seemed at times he was about to do that, but then fell right back down the rabbit hole. Tonight, however, might be just what the doctor ordered for him. He ended the game second in scoring with 29 points on 4-6 from two and 5-13 from three. He also played 38 minutes, which is the most he’s played this season.
The man who seems to continuously keep this team in games, not by scoring but by getting extra possessions, is Jarred Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt led the team with 15 rebounds tonight, 7 of them on the offensive glass.
“That’s my dog”, says Anthony Edwards about Vanderbilt postgame.
Tonight was a prime example of how Vanderbilt can impact winning for this team. If you key in on Vanderbilt on any possession, you’ll see a man who is determined to get the ball for his team. That is a player that every NBA team can use and the Wolves have him.
Overall, the Wolves did what they do best; play with energy and aggressiveness on defense. That is what won the Wolves this game, and most of their games this season so far.
The Heat couldn’t seem to get anything together as they allowed the Wolves to outrebound them by 12, despite Towns playing 5 first half minutes. Their three positive players tonight were Gabe Vincent, Kyle Lowry, and Caleb Martin. That doesn’t spell recipe for success.
The Wolves, who now own a 5 game winning streak, improved to .500 on the season and are currently tied for the 7th best record in the Western Conference. Their next game will be Friday night in Charlotte against LaMelo Ball and the Hornets. The Wolves will be looking to have a winning record for the first time since they were 3-2 earlier this season.