The Minnesota Timberwolves tonight simply couldn’t conjure up the required energy they needed for a second fourth quarter comeback in as many nights in front of another terrific crowd in Downtown Minneapolis.
Toronto Raptors guard — and Apple Valley native — Gary Trent Jr. stepped onto the Target Center floor he knows oh so well and let it rip from the opening tip, but not before getting into it with fellow fiery, two-way guard Patrick Beverley that led to double technicals being issued before start of the game.
Patrick Beverley and Gary Trent Jr. got T'd up before tip off pic.twitter.com/txs6X9G0fl— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) February 17, 2022
Trent Jr. responded by rifling off 13 points in the game’s first six minutes. Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch equated the challenges the Raptors offense creates to that of bucket-getters at a lunch-time open gym run — just a bunch of guys who love getting to their spots and making defenses pay. Trent Jr. did just that throughout the night, but set the tone for a Raptors team playing without All-Star starting point guard Fred VanVleet, who is nursing a knee injury yet plans to take part in the All-Star festivities in Cleveland this weekend.
Finch’s defense really ratcheted it up in the second quarter. The long arms and quick feet of Jaden McDaniels played a major role in slowing down defacto point guard Pascal Siakam by making it tough for him to get where the All-Star wanted to get with the dribble and fire off passes to shooters on the perimeter.
McDaniels play has continually shined brighter with each game that passes on both ends of the floor. His growing confidence is omnipresent on the offensive end, as he has become more comfortable attacking the rim and stepping into 3s, while the adverse impact his defensive foul rate has on the team has dramatically declined. He will deservedly take part in the Rising Stars Games on Friday night in Cleveland.
Backup center Naz Reid pitched in to support McDaniels by using his length and anticipatory defensive nature to consistently finish off defensive possessions that McDaniels muddied, and as a result, Toronto scored just 19 points in the quarter. The Wolves were able to get back out in front at the half, despite a combined zero points from Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards in the second frame.
Towns wasn’t going to let that keep him from going away quietly. The now three-time All-Star added to his 10-point first quarter with nine in the third and some big defensive rebounds to help prevent the Raptors from capitalizing on their size advantage on the offensive boards.
Minnesota held a two-point lead going into the fourth, where the wheels fell off on both ends. The five-man unit of Jordan McLaughlin, D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, McDaniels, and Reid really struggled on the defensive end, allowing uncontested layups and open 3s, all while only scoring four points in the first 4:34 of the period. Beasley missed three wide open 3s in that stretch en route to a 2/10 shooting night from deep. The volatile marksman is shooting 35.3% from 3 at home, compared 39.9% last season, and continues to tug on the heartstrings of Wolves fans.
When the starters came back in, the deficit was just too large to overcome after they led Minnesota to. a thrilling, emotional home overtime win over the Charlotte Hornets last night.
The Wolves now have a week off before beginning a string of four straight sets of back-to-back games on the other side of the break. Minnesota enters the break at 31-28, the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. If results held, they would host a play-in game in April.
Edwards and McDaniels all headed to Cleveland to play in the Rising Stars Tournament on Friday night at All-Star Weekend, while Towns will make the trip with winning the 3-point content on his mind.
“I’m going to practice for it, so it means a lot. I ain’t just showing up to be a smiling face. I’m going to compete. I’m not showing up to Cleveland for anything less,” Towns said, before making clear his other plans for the weekend. “I want to win the All-Star game. I want to win Saturday night. Hell, if I get a chance I’m trying to get that MVP on Sunday. I’m going to win. I’m going to play. I just lifted after the game. I’m acting like this is a big game coming up. This is not a vacation for me. I told all the guys in there leaving, enjoy y’all vacation, I’m going to be in there working.”
Karl-Anthony Towns showed us his All-Star ring after media wrapped.— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) February 17, 2022
He’s headed to the All-Star Game for the third time on his career, and will compete in the 3-point contest as well. pic.twitter.com/FJJgETg82j
You can catch the Rising Stars Tournament on Friday night at 8 PM CT, All-Star Saturday night at 7 PM CT, and the 2022 NBA All-Star Game on Sunday at 7 PM CT, with all events broadcasted on TNT.