MINNEAPOLIS — With three minutes remaining in the third, Anthony Edwards split the Warriors trap and took flight. His ferocious slam put the Wolves up 81-80, injecting life into the entire building. Following up a disappearing act in Memphis by the bench unit, it became a bench mob blowout after Ant started the party with his fireworks.
(It was an otherwise silent night from the exuberant Ant-Man.)
Karl-Anthony Towns led the way as he usually does with 26 points and 11 boards, fighting through constant armbars from Kevon Looney and tremendous pressure from the pesky Warriors that played him physically from the jump. KAT started slow but held his composure throughout, eventually finding his groove with quick drives to the rim before Golden State could send an extra man or move him off his post-up spots.
“He was frustrated but I didn’t think it ate him alive,” Finch said of the Warriors' defensive strategies on Towns. “He did a good job of staying aggressive, finishing through some contact there, got some and-1s. I thought he did a good job of imposing himself tonight.”
Then came the bench spark.
In a season of shooting struggles, Malik Beasley (16 points on 5-9 from deep) has remained confident in his jumper and this might be the night that got Malik right. He needed a night like this so badly. When he’s on, the ceiling of this team immediately rises.
“Just told myself to keep shootin’. I’ve been getting great looks the last couple of games,” said Beasley. “It just hasn’t been falling, so I tell myself keep shooting, trust your work, and tonight it showed.”
“We knew this was going to happen,” Nowell said of Beasley’s five treys. “Malik is one of the best shooters in the league. Keep shooting; keep putting them up. We want him to shoot every three that he can and we have full confidence in him.”
Jaylen Nowell (17 points) also showed the offensive firepower that can boost the second unit and the floor spacing that coach Chris Finch can blend into different lineups as he sees fit. “You da one, Jack,” Ant proclaimed on the sidelines in regards to Nowell, as he loves to say.
“It’s the work plus the opportunity,” Nowell said of his recent surge. “Now we’re seeing the fruits of the labor.”
Beasley and Nowell were joined by two other reserves that have also seen their struggles this season. Naz Reid added 9 points and 9 rebounds in 15 minutes, and Jaden McDaniels also finished with 9 points to go with his usual stifling defense (4 stocks) and a team-high +27 alongside Beasley.
With Steph Curry and Draymond Green both sitting out nursing injuries, the Wolves were favored to win but the way they ultimately won with a revived bench, 119-99, is the most promising part aside from keeping the minute totals low for a starting group that could use a smooth cruise into the finish line for once. The hope is this kind of all-around team win continues and sparks another streak that can keep them rising in the Western Conference. (They end the night in the 7th seed but aspire to finish top 6 to avoid the play-in games.)
Jordan Poole scored 20 points and Jonathan Kuminga had 19 points for the Warriors, who looked like a team missing their stars. Former Wolf Andrew Wiggins had 12 points on 11 shots. He was hardly noticeable. But he’s an All-Star! Right? A healthy Klay Thompson drew an early applause from the crowd, though his rustiness was visible. He was held in check, scoring 13 points on 14 shots.
As the reserves were completing the win in the final minutes in a game Finch deemed “much-needed,” Pat Beverley shared with the media section that he was set to go out afterward. He was satisfied with the showing and ready to celebrate in the city. Beverley looked towards D’Angelo Russell (who ended the night with seven points and 12 assists) to ask an important question.
“What’s a Minnesota drink?” Before D’Lo could respond, Beverley questioned, “Bourbon?”
So, the night could best be described as one highlighted by the bench mob and finished with bourbon. But as Finch noted in his postgame comments, it’s time for the Wolves to make a real push up the standings before they celebrate too much.
“Now it’s time to go,” said Finch. “Make a push between now and the All-Star break.”