From a spectator standpoint, Friday night was the most fun game of the 2022-23 Timberwolves season so far. The return of Rudy Gobert to Salt Lake City, paired with an inspired performance from Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt crossing paths with their former team led to emotions being high, and everything good about basketball.
It was a constant tug of war, and a rough third quarter from Minnesota had the game in the balance in the fourth, and in need of big shotmaking.
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In a night where big shotmaking would be a telltale sign of who was going to escape with a win, D’Angelo Russell answered the call.
He finished the game with 30 points, but 20 of them came in the fourth quarter on a perfect 7 for 7 shooting.
This 20-point fourth quarter comes on the heels of a 15-point fourth quarter for on Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers; a stark contrast to how Russell started the season. He’s clearly locked in, and Chris Finch spoke on it after the game.
“[D-Lo] is a heck of a player; he’s got a lot to offer,” Finch said. “We asked him early in the season to set the table a little bit more...it hurt rhythm wise a little bit, but he started to find rhythm even before KAT went out. I want him to stay confident in his shot. He’s an elite shooter.”
For Russell, he felt he was just overthinking things a little bit too much to start the year out.
“I had the wrong approach,” he said. “I was too focused on being a point guard as opposed to a basketball player.”
This ability to play more free has the Wolves on back to back wins; and it was even bigger tonight with Anthony Edwards struggling from the floor (3-14 FG).
“We have a talented group,” Russell said. “It forces teams to over-help sometimes. It could be anybody’s night, it was mine tonight.”
D’Angelo Russell:— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) December 10, 2022
6/7 on 2PA
6/9 on 3PA
D’Lo has been dominant this week, especially in the 4th quarter - hope to see that trend continue. pic.twitter.com/RHxXCTWtKf
The Kyle Anderson Game
Anderson was the X-Factor for Minnesota. He was essential in facilitating offense and getting the ball out to scorers with pace. He finished with 15 points, but posted a career-high 12 assists. He added 7 boards and finished second on the team in +/- with a +12.
Chris Finch heaped rightful praise on him after the game.
“Kyle was a great decision maker,” he said. “He got to the heart of the defense at will...he’s an incredible player because you can literally play him at all 5 positions.”
And he did a little bit of everything.
“He’s a point guard...is game is super effective,” D-Lo piled on after the game. “High praise for him, he may get misunderstood, but he can play point guard.”
With Naz Reid having an up-and-down night, Anderson was played pretty much all over the place, and answered the bell. He was especially key in the fourth, setting up D-Lo off the ball with good catch and shoot opportunities, which was something D-Lo said made his job a little bit easier. Finch concurred.
“He gives us a connector out there with that unit...he’s looking to run the offense, he’s willing to move the ball, and he’s a threat to score it when you least expect.”
Kyle Anderson set a career-high with 12 assists tonight, the third time he's dished out 10+ dimes in a game.— Canis Hoopus (@canishoopus) December 10, 2022
He had 15 points, seven boards and three stocks to go with his incredible playmaking performance.
A masterpiece from Slow-Mo pic.twitter.com/0pW5OeZAIB
Pour One Out for Malik Beasley
You can’t help but feel for Malik Beasley tonight. He seemed to be having so much fun when he pulled the Utah Jazz close in the third.
Malik Beasley bringing the 3's and the Swag to cut Minnesota's lead down to 5 pic.twitter.com/c0qIhSPh8Q— dave (@nbadaves) December 10, 2022
Conversely, when the Utah Jazz pressed full court at the end of the game, which resulted in a basket, having fun and celebrating was all of the sudden off-limits.
Malik Beasley having words with Rudy Gobert for scoring late when the game was out of reach pic.twitter.com/AU7I1Q6kSs— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) December 10, 2022
Interesting showing in that respect from Beasley, but he was otherwise very good against his former team (23 points on 9-18 FG).
Minnesota will head further northwest for two games in three days against the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland has won two of its last three, but is coming off of a loss at the hands of the Denver Nuggets.
An important thing to note as that this will be a back-to-back to the Wolves, while the Blazers will be on a day of rest.