Minnesota Timberwolves (10-31) at Phoenix Suns (26-13)
Fox Sports North
After last night’s incredible victory over the Suns, the Wolves remain in Phoenix to attempt to stake another victory against one of the best teams in the Western Conference. All eyes are on the Wolves now after Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns combined for 83 of the Wolves 123 points last night. Frankly, it is going to be incredibly difficult for the team to maintain their effort and energy after last night’s triumphant performance.
Part of the challenge is that the Wolves are playing against one of the best teams and they still retain the worst record in the league. The talent gap on a normal night is immense. The Suns are deep and very good, it took an amazing output from the Wolves’ two stars to compete.
But Anthony Edwards is also bound to come back to earth. Over the last nine games, Ant is taking the second shots per game in the entire league with 22.7 FGA per game. Over this stretch, he is shooting 43.1% from the floor and 31.1% from deep. In the last five games, that has risen to 47.6% from the floor and 39.1% from deep, all while averaging 30.6 points per game and setting career highs in scoring twice. This stretch has solidified Ant’s superstar potential and hierarchy on the Wolves now and in the future, but it is also unsustainable. Non-LeBron rookies simply do not take this many shots per game nor do it at an efficient level.
However, in order to compete, the Wolves need Ant to continue to play in a Bradley Beal-type role. Last night highlighted how short the Wolves are on offensive firepower if players like Jaylen Nowell and Naz Reid get off to slow starts. There simply are not a lot of other options on the floor.
The other side of the Wolves transcendent duo, Karl-Anthony Towns, will continue to be a matchup nightmare for the Suns. In Finch’s system, Towns is given significantly more opportunities to operate in spaces that slower centers cannot guard. Deandre Ayton struggled to stay on the court last night as he could not stay in front of KAT in isolation at the top of the key, nor adequately rotate back to guard KAT’s threes. The Suns likely will be making defensive adjustments tonight to better guard the Ant-Towns two-man game, attempting to funnel shots to the rest of the roster.
If the Suns can successfully make adjustments, it is tough to see how the Wolves can respond unless the role players step up. The Wolves will need a big game from some combination of Nowell, Reid, Jaden McDaniels, Ricky Rubio, or Jake Layman. The talent deficit is simply too large for Ant and KAT to be able to carry this team on a nightly basis. Nor does the team have the ability to stop Devin Booker or Chris Paul.
However, at the very least, this team has proven that until the Wolves get reinforcements via the trade deadline or when Malik Beasley and D’Angelo Russell return, they will be competitive and every night is another opportunity for Anthony Edwards to demand a superstar role on this team.
Projected Starting Lineups
Who knows, maybe Ant will drop 50 tonight.