The Minnesota Timberwolves kicked off yet another new era of professional basketball on Tuesday night, this time just a mere 336 miles away from the place they call home. After relieving former head coach Ryan Saunders of his duties late Sunday night, the Target Center tenant turned to their new leader Chris Finch, just 24 short hours after he was officially introduced (via Zoom) to the public.
Despite the change in command, the end result against the Milwaukee Bucks was similar to what we’ve seen countless times this season — a double-digit loss by the young Timberwolves. While the first 12 minutes or so looked quite promising, things turned quickly in the second quarter, ultimately resulting in a 139-112 loss at the hands of the former league MVP.
Let’s jump right into it:
Considering the extremely odd circumstances (and timing) of this latest coaching change, it’s pretty difficult to take much (if anything) away from the first game of the Chris Finch era. With that said, far and away the biggest highlight of the night was the enhanced emphasis on getting Karl-Anthony Towns the ball, who finished the night with a career high in assists (11) and a season high in shot attempts (19).
Karl-Anthony Towns played a team-high 36 minutes tonight.— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) February 24, 2021
His first game in the Chris Finch era was a roaring success individually:
• 26 points
• 10/19 FG | 1/6 3PT | 5/5 FT
• 11 assists
• 8 rebounds
• 1 steal
• 3 TOs
Finch made it very evident how involved he'll be.
If you missed the game, it became extremely apparent early on that one of the small adjustments Chris Finch will make is getting Towns touches all over the floor in order to not only give him more room to attack, but also utilize KAT’s vision to set up his teammates. The Wolves didn’t necessarily light the rim on fire on Tuesday night, which negated a handful of other great passes from Karl, but while the jury is still out on how all of this will eventually play out for Minnesota, it’s clear after 48 minutes that KAT is going to be fed early and often.
Again, it’s hard to highlight too many “good” takeaways when you get your ass kicked, but in addition to Towns, Malik Beasley looked like a new man against the Bucks. The NBA Star finished with 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting, including a really nice 6-9 from three. He also dished out four assists and looked about as comfortable sprinting around screens and attacking off the catch as he has all season.
In the spirit of being objective, I feel inclined to mention that Minnesota — under a new head coach — delivered the same type of end result that became far too common under their old head coach. Tonight was the 13th time this season that the Timberwolves had gotten down by at least 20 points in a game, and was the 12th time they lost by 10 or more points.
With that all said, if you were expecting much of anything early on under Chris Finch, then I think it may be wise to readjust any level of expectations for this team over the next couple of weeks (and months). Under no circumstances am I implying that this team can continue to get by with these types of performances going forward, but considering everything that’s happened over the last 48 hours, I do think it’s fair to give this latest experiment a *little* time before we start delivering our next round of #takes.
Outside of the result, it was another disappointing offensive performance for the young rookie Anthony Edwards, who finished the night with just nine points on 3-of-13 shooting. ANT did collect 6 rebounds, dish out 4 assists, and match a career high with 2 blocks, but a basic eye test showed that Edwards looked really lost out there in this one and might be experiencing a combination of hitting a rookie wall mixed with the chaos and dysfunction that occurs from an in-season coaching (and philosophy) change. While I am clearly hella biased, I agree with Jon’s assertion below that the young kid will indeed figure things out as the season (and his career) unfolds.
Feels like Edwards is easing into this one and trying to figure out his new surroundings. He's deferring a lot and turning it over. He'll figure things out.— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) February 24, 2021
The last notable item to mention is an odd mixture of both good and bad. Despite being at the helm for just one single game, the Chris Finch effect was on full display Tuesday night as Minnesota shot a franchise record 54 three-pointers (yes FIFTY-FOUR), which represented 55% of their total FGA’s.
The Timberwolves shot 54 threes tonight which is the most they’ve ever shot in a game ever.— jakes graphs (@jakesgraphs) February 24, 2021
In a league that is placing more and more of an emphasis on spreading the floor, a stat like this seems pretty good (or at least kind of cool). But here’s the bad part — Minnesota only connected on 35.2% of those threes (19-of-54), and a lot of those misses resulted in easy transition buckets for Giannis and his friends.
Again, I think it’s far too early to start overreacting to anything truly being good or bad, and I do think some of these shots were impacted by the flow of the game (i.e. a massive blowout). Nonetheless, this type of stat is probably the biggest overall takeaway from the first game under a new head coach, and will be the most interesting aspect to watch over these next couple of weeks as Chris Finch and his players continue the feeling out process that comes with an in-season coaching change.
Back at it tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/ecAC97ELxC— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) February 24, 2021