I’m going to be honest, I expected the Minnesota Timberwolves to cruise to an easy victory tonight. The Detroit Pistons were missing star rookie Cade Cunningham (which was a huge bummer) and we should’ve been able to see 10-15 minutes of Nathan Knight and Jake Layman led garbage time minutes. The score won’t truly reflect it but Detroit kept it close until the end of the game.
Minnesota started off strong, but Detroit’s engines were revved up and they were able to keep right with the Wolves winning both the first and second quarters. midway through the third quarter Minnesota took a more sizeable lead and while getting close, the Pistons just weren’t quite able to catch back up.
There are a few fun takeaways for this game. However, I would be a bad fan if I didn’t block out a bit to talk about how special Cade Cunningham is and how we all missed out as basketball fans with his absence in this game. Cunningham, the number one pick of the past draft, has came on as of late averaging 15.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game as a rookie. The Timberwolves have been lucky to miss a lot of key players of the opposing teams and Cunningham is the latest player to join that list.
Going back to the game though, the biggest pregame story, as Jack Borman talked about here, was Karl-Anthony Towns making the All Star game as a reserve player. This is KAT’s third All Star game which ties Kevin Love for the second most appearances in Timberwolves history (Kevin Garnett is number one).
The Active Whistle
The next story, speaking of KAT, was technical fouls. In what felt like a blink Patrick Beverley got what seemed like two techs. Fortunately one of them were assigned to Towns so Beverley remained in the game. It was Towns’ 10th tech which means there are only six techs remaining before he receives a suspension. Not to be outdone, Anthony Edwards would also go on to get a tech early in the third quarter and it set a tone that took Minnesota a little to shake as the game went on.
The Prince-McLaughlin Reawaking
On a brighter side, Jordan McLaughlin and Taurean Prince have been absolutely amazing lately. The pair of former Nets (Long Island and Brooklyn Nets respectively) have stepped up in a tremendous way while lone fellow ex-Net D’Angelo Russell remains out. Both players have looked unplayable throughout the season but they took the term “new year, new me” to heart and have looked like their old selves again which is huge for Minnesota’s bench rotation.
Prince has become the flamethrower version of the 3&D player Minnesota had hoped he’d be when Minnesota traded beloved player Ricky Rubio for him. McLaughlin has seemingly turned into Patrick Beverley-lite on defense being a hustling pest and turning tides in games for Minnesota. He’s rediscovering that top tier chemistry he has with Naz Reid as well. Both players playing so well puts Minnesota in a curious position heading into the trade deadline as they’re making a great case for Minnesota to stand pat.
Minnesota is now two games over .500 for the first time since October 27th. They are also closer to the sixth seed Denver Nuggets (28-23) than they are to the eighth seed LA Clippers (26-27). Looking to escape the play-in games would be a huge step for Minnesota.
Minnesota returns home for a second game against the Pistons on Sunday (2/6) at 2:30pm Central, then has a pair of back to back games in Sacramento on Tuesday (2/8) and Wednesday (2/9) at the dreaded 9:00pm Central timeslot. There’s a good chance that star D’Angelo Russell returns during this stretch and potential extends this three game winning streak to six.