For the first time since November 29, the Minnesota Timberwolves are back above .500. Let’s get right to it...
Anthony Edward dropped a 40 piece tonight— NBABet (@nbabet) January 26, 2022
✅ Over 21.5 points
✅ Over 3.5 3PM pic.twitter.com/YjeaN2UjlT
If you missed Tuesday night’s game against the Trail Blazers, you were saved from yet another lackluster start from a Timberwolves team that has grown fond of hitting the snooze button early in games (especially against lesser opponents).
A few minutes into the first quarter, Portland head coach Chauncey Billups threw a wrench at Minnesota that they apparently had never seen before — a zone defense — and boy did the Wolves not handle that well. The defensive strategy caused Minnesota to take bad shot after bad shot, and that’s when they weren’t turning the ball over or committing silly offensive fouls. Simply put, the first 24 minutes were some of the least inspired and least productive quarters the team has played all season.
I was fortunate enough to cover tonight’s game at the Moda Center, and I say that for one simple reason: despite the putrid performance by the Wolves in the first half, you could physically see Anthony Edwards come out in the third quarter like a freight train covered in pre-workout. More on that in a second...
After a Nassir Little three early in the third quarter, Chris Finch called a quick timeout with 9:16 remaining and his team trailing 70-57. As the team sauntered back to the huddle, you could see from our media seats that the 20-year old kid from the University of Georgia was REALLY starting to become more and more engaged, slapping his teammates on the back and signaling to them that, despite the underwhelming start to the night, that there was still a way for Minnesota to somehow steal a victory.
Following that timeout, the Wolves’ defense completely flipped the script (led by Jarred Vanderbilt) who continued to show that his motor has no limits. After a few recent “meh” performances (by his standards), Vando was phenomenal again on Tuesday night, tallying 13 points, 13 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block, and a TEAM-HIGH 6 assists. Portland did stagger to their feet just enough to throw a couple body blows in retaliation, but it was too little too late as Minnesota stormed back on a 27-12 run to close the third, led by none other than:
Anthony Edwards with a game-changing second-half scoring outburst.— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) January 26, 2022
Ant can blow by + evade defenders on his way to the rim, forcing defenses to go under screens + sag off in isolation.
When that happens, Ant can capitalize with step-back 3s.
Jaw-dropping self-creation tools. pic.twitter.com/jZgaFhl0T8
Watching what Anthony Edwards did on Tuesday night was simply incredible. It’s not just the shots he hits or the steals he collects, it’s his overall tornado-like energy that builds exponentially with every great play he adds to his highlight reel. After a lifeless start to the game for Minnesota, Edwards simply decided midway through the third quarter that enough was enough and that he would go full video game Greg Jennings and put the team on his back. The ability to take over a game single-handedly is special no matter who the player is, but a 20-year old kid who has only played 112 games in his short NBA career? Unreal.
“I feel like Black Jesus.”— Kyle Theige (@KyleTheige) January 26, 2022
Anthony Edwards on what it felt like during his 40-point performance against the Blazers.
While the biggest takeaway from Tuesday night was clearly ANT, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention both Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, who found various ways to make winning plays throughout the game.
KAT finished the game with a season-low 7 shot attempts (which had the Wolves lost this game would have hands down been the biggest talking point), but also collected a season-high 17 rebounds to go with his season-high 4 blocks. Under no circumstances whatsoever should Towns ever finish a game with single-digit shot attempts, but major credit to the big man for doing ALL of the dirty work necessary for his team to secure the victory.
Last but not least – D’Angelo Russell. His box score numbers might not jump out at you, but it was the little things throughout the game that really stuck out to me (like using a rip through move to get free throws and stop the opponents run, or making the right play in the final seconds of the game to put his team on top).
You can really tell that not only has Russell started to find his stroke more as of late, but he’s also becoming more and more comfortable being the floor general for this team and helping put the younger guys in positions to succeed. If you missed his and ANT’s postgame media availability, I definitely suggest watching that on YouTube, as it highlights yet another level of Russell’s leadership and a “college professor-like” mentorship he has for a guy like Edwards. Cool stuff.
I already touched on the slow start for the Timberwolves — had Anfernee Simons hit that last second three-point attempt, we’d all be singing a much different tune about how this game played out. Minnesota’s lack of urgency in these games against lesser opponents continues to be one of the most frustrating characteristics of this team, and one that will need to be addressed as the schedule softens starting in February.
Finally — the bench. It was terrible. Jaylen Nowell did have his moments, but the trio of Naz Reid, Malik Beasley, and Taurean Prince combined for 58 minutes and just 6 total points and 3 total rebounds. That kind of inconsistency and unreliability is going to cost the Wolves dearly moving forward, and could have potentially overshadowed a stellar performance by ANT had Russell not connected on that final bucket.
With the trade deadline approximately two weeks away, Minnesota should use Tuesday night’s game as Exhibit A (or maybe Exhibit Y by this point) that they need to be BUYERS prior to February 10. Throughout the first half of the season, this team has clearly shown that they compete with anyone, which means it’s time to not necessarily go “all-in,” but at least push a couple of their chips into the middle of the table.