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Wolves 121, Bulls 117: Statement Sunday

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The Timberwolves ended their weekend with a wire-to-wire victory over some familiar faces.

Chicago Bulls v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Happy Sunday! We had a slight last-minute scheduling situation pop up, so apologies in advance but this is going to be a relatively quick recap and then I’ll lob it up to all of you for the additional postgame thoughts.

Here we go...

The Good

Damn near everything and everyone — for the first time in as far back as my small brain can remember, the Minnesota Timberwolves finished off a wire-to-wire victory in a game that they definitely deserved to win. Yes it was just the Chicago Bulls (who are currently sitting in 10th in the Eastern Conference), but basically everyone wearing “WOLVES” on their chest Sunday night deserves to at least be mentioned here:

  • Jarrett Culver hit a corner three.
  • Ricky Rubio submitted his resume to the NBA Three-Point Contest by connecting on his first five attempts from deep.
  • Josh Okogie was an absolute pest against Zach LaVine, holding him to just 9 points in the first half (LaVine did finish with 30, but that’s simply because he’s one of the most naturally gifted scorers in the entire league).
  • Naz Reid was simply phenomenal — adding 18 points off the bench on a very nice 6-of-9 shooting.
  • Anthony Edwards, who had a relatively quiet game with only 15 points on 5-of-14 shooting, didn’t force the issue and looked far more active on the defensive end (or maybe this is just the Pinot talking, I’m not exactly sure).
  • Jaden McDaniels might not wow anyone after a quick glimpse of the stat sheet, but he did have three first quarter blocks, which helped set the tone for the team’s overall defense early on.
  • Juancho Hernangomez went 0-1 in the 8 minutes he played, but he did have a pretty nifty assist to Anthony Edwards for a three and was a live body against Chicago’s talented front line, so a gold star for his effort as well.
  • Jordan McLaughlin also played just 8 minutes, but did hit his one and only FGA, which means he gets to join the GOOD party as well.

The story of the night though was the play of both Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, who once again flashed the long-term potential that Gersson Rosas has been preaching since he acquired the PG from Golden State last spring.

Russell came off the bench yet again (could this be a rest of season trend?), and finished with an uber efficient 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting, including 3-of-6 from deep and 6-6 from the free throw line. As I’ve said before, in terms of his physical appearance, D-Lo looks like a completely different player as he returns from his knee surgery. Prior to going under the knife (and even before he was finally ruled out), it looked like Russell lacked explosiveness (even for his standards) and was just not right. But since coming back to the lineup last week, the former Ohio State Buckeye has looked refreshed, rebuilt, and recharged.

In his four games since returning to the team, Russell is averaging 22.7 points per game and is shooting 39.1% from three. He’s also averaging 5.3 assists per game and 6.0 FTA’s, which to me might be the biggest change in his game. It’s definitely a small sample size, so I respect and welcome any pushback here, but D-Lo’s ability to get to the line at a much higher rate is extremely promising and if he sustains this over the rest of the season, it just provides another element for Chris Finch to build into his wizardry-like offense.

With ALL of that said, the game ball tonight goes to one person and one person only: Karl-Anthony Towns. It was an extremely emotional night for KAT, not only because Karl’s father was in attendance courtside for this one, but the Wolves also reserved a seat for Karl’s late mother Jacqueline Towns, who passed away last year from COVID-19.

The one-year anniversary of Jacqueline’s passing is this Tuesday. A huge shoutout to the entire Timberwolves organization for handling this extremely sad and emotional moment with the utmost class and respect.

Back to Karl — he finished two assists shy of a triple-double, ending the night with 27 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists, and this thunderous dunk on new Bulls employee Nikola Vucevic:

On top of everything going on tonight for the Towns family, there was extra emotion in the air as close friends Towns and LaVine took the court once again as opponents, not teammates. After the game, both Karl and Zach shared a really cool moment with Karl, Sr. (KAT’s dad):

Before I sign off, I’d be remiss without including the wildest stat of the night — the Timberwolves finished the game shooting a perfect 100% from the charity stripe (25-of-25). The Wolves have shot themselves in the foot many times this season from the free throw line, but it was extra refreshing to see them seal the deal when it mattered most.

The Bad

The only bad thing about tonight is that it’s Sunday and that means the scaries are starting to creep in. If I missed anything “bad” as it pertains to the game itself, leave your analysis below and we can discuss it in the morning.

Have a great week, everyone!

Game Highlights