Despite losing three of their last five games, the Minnesota Timberwolves are starting to rekindle the fire that made them so much fun to watch last season.
The clunky fit between Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns has given the team a different on-court feel than the Patrick Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt-led hustle squad. This year’s group has more top-end talent and thus a higher ceiling — and through 30 games isn’t worse than last year’s (15-15 both seasons) — but hasn’t been as exciting as the 2021-22 group.
The Wolves poured gas on the fire on Sunday night, with Naz Reid, D’Angelo Russell and Nathan Knight getting the crowd on its feet through rim-rocking slams and logo heaves.
DLO FROM THE LOGO pic.twitter.com/bnARNcK9vz— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) December 19, 2022
Sunday night was a game full of the unexpected, with DeMar DeRozan hitting a 3-point shot, Bryn Forbes hitting two 3-point shots (first makes since Nov. 28), Austin Rivers shooting 4-6 from beyond the arc, and the Wolves scoring a franchise-record 150 points against a previously top-10 Chicago Bulls defense that fell from ninth to 18th after last night’s game.
Even though he left the game in the second quarter with left trapezius tightness, Reid didn’t miss a shot from the field (4-4) in the 12 minutes he played, in which he scored the team’s first 10 points.
Reid’s performance against Chicago was a smooth transition from his game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, a game in which he scored 28 points on 11-18 shooting.
A noticeable difference from seasons past, Reid is playing with tremendous pace in 2022-23. With “stickiness” plaguing Minnesota’s offense this year, the LSU standout’s quick decision-making has been an incredible breath of fresh air for fans.
Reid’s movement — the movement that he mentioned stems from a chemistry with Jordan McLaughlin and Jaylen Nowell from their time in Iowa — has infected the starting lineup, giving the team an offensive flow that hasn’t been there thus far.
Nathan Knight has also brought some juice to the front-court, scoring 16 points against the Bulls on Sunday. He was potent on the offensive end, splashing a corner three and relentlessly attacking the rim from the moment he stepped on the court.
The William & Mary product has outstanding bounce, as every roll to the rim could end up with a poster. His rim-rolling has led to eight free throw attempts in the last two games for him — nine for Reid in a similar fashion — giving the Wolves rolling threats different from what they have with Gobert.
Reid and Knight’s athleticism and quickness provide a new level of excitement that captivates fans’ attention as soon as they check in.
Russell didn’t miss out on the fun at Target Center on Sunday night, shooting a blistering 7-10 from 3-point land and tacking on eight assists. His 28-point performance marked his sixth consecutive game with 23 or more points, bringing his average to 26.7 PPG during that six-game period.
We’ve seen Russell play with a unique spark since Towns went down with a calf strain, thrusting him into a scoring role that mirrors roles he’s held during some of the most successful parts of his career.
Not too many players in the league playing as well within themselves as D'Angelo Russell is right now.— Canis Hoopus (@canishoopus) December 19, 2022
Professional scorer on an absolute heater so far to start this one: 17 points thanks to 5/6 shooting from 3, and has 3 AST to 0 TOs.
Last but certainly not least, Anthony Edwards is having fun again.
He scored a season-high 37 points against the Bulls to go along with a career-high 11 assists. The joyous play from Edwards seems to have crept back into the third-year guard, which, without question, spreads to the rest of the group.
I haven't seen Anthony Edwards have this much fun in a game all season. His smile couldn't be wider— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) December 19, 2022
The team is certainly not perfect, as in the last two games they’ve squeaked by the Thunder and followed it up by surrendering 126 points to the Bulls. But for now, the Wolves finally are fun to watch again.
Through the first 20 or so games it sometimes felt like a chore to watch this team, not having a whole lot to get excited about. But through — still imperfect — recent performances that feature exciting plays from players not typically in the spotlight, the fanbase is starting to feel a spark that got so many excited about basketball in Minneapolis.