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Wolves 134, Kings 114: Bench Mob Carries Minnesota

McLaughlin, Beasley ignite Timberwolves in victory

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

There are a few things to groan about tonight, notably the porous defense that allowed Sacramento to hang around far longer than they should have.

We’re just not going to do that tonight, though.

This space is dedicated to shining a light on just how unbelievable the bench unit is playing. Jordan McLaughlin had 11 points and 11 assists and was a team-best +18 (tied with Taurean Prince). Malik Beasley has officially busted out of his season-long slump, and tonight he tied a career-high with seven made threes on his way to 21 points. Jaden McDaniels added a nice punch from the wing, and Taurean Prince and Naz Reid both continued to play outstanding, winning basketball.

It’s really hard to overstate just how amazing this unit played tonight, and while Beasley had the big scoring night (more on him in a moment), J-Mac is the clear head of the snake. He’s now up to 34 assists and 1 turnover over his last several games.

He has been every bit as remarkable as he’s ever been, but it’s an especially welcome sign given how rough of a start to the season he had. J-Mac is back, and he very obviously looks like a legit backup floor general again.

The man of the night, though, is Beas. There is probably not a guy on the team who’s had as rough of a start to the year relative to expectations as Malik, but you really have to give him an immense amount of credit for pulling himself out of that hole. He is on fire of late, and is proving again why he is such a weapon. Beasley warps your defense in a way that few shooters in the entire league do. The tweet below was sent even BEFORE his huge third quarter that busted the game open.

I’ve always thought that the notion that Prince’s hot-shooting made Beasley’s more expendable, primarily because they do different things for an offense. Prince is a very good shooter, without a doubt, but that notion ignores Malik’s ability to shoot off of movement at an elite level, which is what really bends a defense and opens things up for an offense. It’s not just catch-and-shoot makes, it’s the attention that an elite shooter like Beasley demands off of a simple pin-down screen.

Needless to say, the transformation of the bench over the last month+ has changed a lot Minnesota. Prince and Beasley’s shooting surrounding the rest of the bench unit directed by McLaughlin has created a monster for teams to deal with. The Timberwolves are winning games because there bench unit has become nearly impossible for opposing benches to guard, while McDaniels is there to put out any potential fires on the defensive end.

In a bizarre twist, it is now the bench who is carrying the starters. Karl-Anthony Towns had a nice night, but for the most part the starters were pretty “meh” and Anthony Edwards in particular had a miserable evening. The starters mostly played Sacramento to a draw, roughly, while the bench built and extended the lead. They won the game tonight, just as they won the game against the Pistons on Sunday.

The beauty of this team is that the defense can play poorly, get relatively modest (I’m in a cheery mood) from D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards, and win by 20 points anyways. Yes, I’m aware of who the opponent was, but that was us not too long ago. The regular season is long and very strange, so I’m damn sure going to celebrate each and every win.

There is just a joy about the way this team is playing. As the starting unit has hit a rough patch (read: regression) relative to their impossibly efficient start to the year, the shooting from the bench unit as normalized. This is a team that picks each other up, and one that makes you want to cheer for them. It’s one that makes it worth staying up late to watch a game in Sacramento.

Go Wolves, and thanks for nothing tonight, Thibs.