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Wolves 98, Thunder 90: Not on Patrick Beverley’s Watch

The Timberwolves gutted out a sloppy win over the Thunder that teetered on the edge of collapse in front of an anxious Target Center crowd.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The lack of energy that plagued “Old Wolves” teams crept back into Target Center before a heavy dose of everyone’s favorite antidote — Patrick Beverley — infused the Minnesota Timberwolves with game-saving energy.

The Timberwolves led by as much as 21 points in the first half before the Oklahoma City Thunder’s backcourt, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey, decided they wouldn’t go away.

SGA turned in 11 points of his 19 points in the third quarter by evidently turning his aggression up a notch, while Giddy made a couple of key triples and was a menace on the glass on his way to corralling 15 rebounds to go with his 14 points and six assists.

That furious, back-court-led charge in the third quarter sent flying the “We’re going to lose this game, aren’t we” texts we know all too well.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Harrison Barden/Getty Images

Beverley sensed it and simply wasn’t having it.

The 10-year veteran tore into the Wolves bench during the game and in timeouts, imploring them to turn up the intensity on the both ends of the floor. Jaylen Nowell knows mental toughness is a mandate of any team Beverley is on.

“Pat will get on you, man. Yell at you, all types of stuff. If you ain’t mentally ready for that, ehh, I don’t know what to tell you,” Nowell said postgame.

In addition to Beverley scoring five key points, and making impactful rotations and smart passes in the fourth, his teammates — especially Nowell and Anthony Edwards — rose to the occasion.

The former PAC-12 Player of the Year poured in 16 points on 6/6 shooting, to go along with three rebounds and three assists.

Nowell has an uncanny ability of pushing the right buttons at the right time. He closed the game over D’Angelo Russell because of it, a sign that Chris Finch trusts that ability.

Whether it was the score above, a tremendous find of Jaden McDaniels in the corner that led to a bucket, or attacking a key closeout out of a Karl-Anthony Towns double-team seen below, Nowell delivered when the team sorely needed it. For him, it’s all in the preparation.

“I don’t really focus on how many minutes I’m going to get. I just focus on the minutes that I do get, to make sure that I go out and be the best version of myself,” Nowell said postgame. “That’s just worrying about the wrong thing if I’m worried about the minutes I’m going to get. Should be focused on winning, and contributing at the end of the day, not about how many minutes I’m going to be on the floor.”

Edwards exploded into the lane for an and-1 mid-way through the fourth, after a mo-killer timeout from Finch, that gave fans their first feeling of security since early in the starters left the floor in the third quarter.

Edwards was largely dormant in the lane outside of scoring two paint baskets in the opening minutes of the game, despite tapping into his safety days as a football player to register five steals.

“I used to play safety in football. So I kinda, like, bait offenses into passing it to where I want them to pass it. I might act like I’m gonna drop, but I know he gonna throw it here, so I might just shoot that passing lane. That’s pretty much it,” Edwards said after the game.

When asked if he plays like Ed Reed, Edwards replied, “Nah, I would say more like Jalen Ramsey. Yeah, Jalen Ramsey. That’s me.”

Perhaps the play of the game from the sophomore sensation was the nail in the coffin: a major corner 3 that had the crowd in the palm of his hand.

I asked Edwards after the game if he feels he and Beverley are the ones the team looks to when the energy is low, because their personalities breathe life into their teammates.

“Yeah, for sure. Especially Pat. Like, no matter if it’s scoring, getting a steal, hyping the crowd up, getting a charge or push. Anything. He’s great at that,” Edwards said. “With me, it’s either getting a deflection, going to get a dunk, or step-back 3. Something like that. Get the crowd going.”

The best part? Edwards knows he has full command of the crowd.

“Yeah. That’s beautiful, man. It’s like, I can’t even explain it. It’s beautiful.”

Oklahoma City Thunder v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Harrison Barden/Getty Images

And whenever he’s at home? He knows it’s showtime.

“I mean anytime we play at home, I figure I gotta put on a show, especially today,” Edwards said. “Pat likes to put on a show, we’re both gonna put on a show at home for sure because we want our fans to come to the game every time we play.”

That energy was necessary on a night fans were surprisingly quiet given the return of Towns and Russell from health and safety protocols, and the team getting out to a 30-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Most importantly, it is great to see the Wolves’ two All-Stars back healthy and having fun on the floor again.

Towns registered 17 points and 16 rebounds in his return on a mostly quiet night from him that highlighted his ability to do the dirty work during games when his teammates are in a rhythm.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Harrison Barden/Getty Images

Russell understandably looked fatigued after his warmup routine, during which he consistently missed shots short, and struggled to get himself going. The Wolves’ point guard finished the night with six points on 12 shots, three assists and two rebounds. Expect him to shoot it much better as he regains his wind.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

While Russell didn’t perform how he may have liked to, he was full of positive energy and was engaged all night long with his teammates talking constantly from the bench. Most importantly, he made the night of plenty of kids that were sitting behind the Wolves bench. Kids were shouting his name over and over and he looked back to acknowledge them several times, encouraging them and thanking them for their support. That love culminated after the game when he gave a young fan the shoes off his feet with his signature on it.

That’s what it’s all about.

Beverley ended the night with a season-high 20 points — to go along with six assists and four rebounds — behind a season-high five 3s, including one with a Steph Curry-esque walk-off.

The counting stats are nice, but the way Beverley breathes energy into this team is his most important attribute because he walks the walk every time he talks that talk. He embraces being a guy that the young Wolves look up to. That veteran presence is crucial, and because of it, we are learning game after game that these are not the Wolves of old.

These are Patrick Beverley’s Wolves. And his Wolves back.

Next up for the Wolves is a rematch with the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Friday night at 7 PM.

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