After having dominated the
Minneapolis Los Angeles Lakers twice this season by an average 18-point margin of victory, the Minnesota Timberwolves decided to tie one hand behind their back by sitting their two max players for matchup number three tonight. Though the Wolves battled valiantly to hold a brief lead in the 4th quarter, they would eventually slip one too many times to end the game. The Crypto.com Orifice erupted in applause when the final buzzer sounded, cued by an explosion of confetti. As our good friend and personal stepstool of Corey Brewer once said:
“Act like you’ve won a basketball game before. There was a lot of snowing out and extra stuff that I hope the Lakers remember.”— ProCity Hoops (@ProCityHoops) December 18, 2021
“They’ve gotten blown out twice [by Minnesota] so they better remember.”
Never change Lakers media, never change pic.twitter.com/VHDTBEdrqC
With that out of the way, it was still an entertaining game of baskets and balls tonight. It was going to be an uphill battle right from the get-go, but go and get did Naz Reid. The Lakers, who were “only” out Anthony Davis, continued their strategy of Center-LeBron. Even without the greatest shooting big man of all-time active, the Wolves still feasted in the paint. Naz ate early and often, easily disposing of defenders like Stanley Robinson. Though Minnesota was able to own the painted area with a dominant 58-32 (!) win in points in the paint and a 56-28 (!!!) win in the rebounding department, it could only get them so far.
LeBron James is still LeBron James and he easily disposed of the Wolves on both sides of the court when he really wanted. LeBron had a casual 26 point (15 FGA), 7 rebound, 5 assist, 3 steal, and 1 block night which seems mild by his standards, but he simply imposed himself on the Wolves late in the game, especially on the defensive end with a number of steals. Speaking of turnovers, Anthony Edwards struggled both to start and end the game with ball control. He coughed up the ball FOUR times in the first 9 minutes of the game and though he was also ice cold shooting the ball, he was able to find a defensive and playmaking rhythm in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. Unfortunately, when the game hung in the balance in the final few minutes, Ant gave the ball up TWO more times, capping off an 8 turnover night. Believe it or not, those 8 turnovers were only 1⁄3 of the Wolves total count tonight, as they gave it up 23 times.
Jaylen Nowell: "I think we're a young team so we have a lot of learning to do. We need to learn from these mistakes, the more/quicker we learn, the more we can stay in these games and pull out wins."— Leo S (@Y0Leo) January 3, 2022
An early Malik Monk MPE and late Carmelo Anthony MPE were tough to overcome. Jaylen Nowell was ultra effective on offense again, helping the Wolves stay afloat on a number of occasions including getting the Wolves their last lead of the game with 8:13 remaining. Russell Westbrook also tried his damnedest to help the Wolves win tonight with 9 of his own turnovers. However, it ultimately came down to 2 possessions that finished the Wolves off for good. Carmelo scored a 4-point play during an end of a shot clock situation, immediately followed by Avery Bradley tossing in a desperation grenade from 21 feet away.
Avery Bradley just beats the shotclock pic.twitter.com/EQPMuxv1eX— hoops bot (@hoops_bot) January 3, 2022
The last minute of the game featured some classic Benny Hill Theme shenanigans that made the game seem closer than it really was. Hard fought effort, but a late collapse doomed the Timberwolves (again).
Naz Reid on frustration: "We have a chance to make the playoffs. When we hurt ourselves, we hurt our chances. The frustration is also because we're a lot better than we displayed."— Leo S (@Y0Leo) January 3, 2022
Omega - Patrick Beverley
Your starting point guard committing 4 turnovers with just 6 assists isn’t going to cut it. That said, PatBev was in full PatBev mode tonight. He didn’t have a great night scoring the ball, but still competed hard and did a lot of the little things. Beverley finished with 12 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, and 4 turnovers, and 1 exchange with Russ.
Russ and Pat Bev share some words after this and-1 pic.twitter.com/rYEWBRHPKC— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 3, 2022
love a good high five pic.twitter.com/HejVnJPajr— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) January 3, 2022
Delta - Jarred Vanderbilt
Vando took 2 shots from the field today, yet still accumulated 12 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals all while seemingly guarding LeBron James for all 32 minutes he was out there. The Wolves Demolition Man was a pest against the Lakers all night and he continues to be a pleasure to watch every game.
ball movement doesn't get better than this— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) January 3, 2022
BCBS/Sharecare Share of the Game pic.twitter.com/4FAu4LlN4r
Beta - Jaylen Nowell
The ascension of Jaylen Nowell past the Malcolm Lee/Josh Okogie tier of role player continues. He’s been on a tear lately, as evidenced by his 17 point (7/10 FG%), 4 rebound, 2 assist, and 1 steal line in just 22 minutes of action. His progression is certainly making it harder and harder to justify why he isn’t soaking up more minutes every game. Also, happy belated birthday Mrs. Nowell!
don't reach.— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) January 3, 2022
cross + finish pic.twitter.com/47GVFiitCV
Coach Finch on Jaylen Nowell: "He's been better. Utah he fouled a lot. He's been better, for sure better. That's what's been earning him his time."— Leo S (@Y0Leo) January 3, 2022
Alpha - Naz Reid
23 points. 11 rebounds. 2 assists. 0.589 FG%.
17 in the half for Naz pic.twitter.com/QAhAojstBR— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) January 3, 2022
If you thought battling LeBron James was hard, the Wolves face arguably their biggest nemesis tomorrow, the Los Angeles Clippers, on Monday at 9:30pm CT. The true team of Los Angeles haven’t just clipped the Wolves in their 3 matchups this season, they’ve smashed them by a total of 58 points (19.3 average). Luckily for the Wolves, it appears unlikely that Karl-Anthony Towns will be active thus we probably won’t have to deal with double teams all game!