Without both Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell, it was on Karl-Anthony Towns and the Wolves cast of role players to take care of business. Portland was without most of their normal NBA players for varying reasons, leaving Josh Hart in a starring role he probably hasn’t played since his days with Jay Wright at Villanova. Unfortunately for Hart, who is a good player, he’s not fit for a high-usage role, which we saw as he finished with just 6 points on 12 shots.
Minnesota realized they had a significant talent advantage, and wasted no time taking control of the game. They were ready to go right from the tip, and were clearly the more aggressive team. The game truly never felt competitive, which is a testament to both the players and the coaching staff, not overlooking their opponent when they easily could have.
By the time Chauncey Billups called timeout with 7:08 remaining in the first quarter, the game already felt over, and after the first quarter ended with the Wolves up 15, the game was over.
The Wolves offense wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders, but it just didn’t matter. Portland shot 20% from the field in the first quarter (24% in the first-half in total), and Minnesota used their superior talent to amass a substantial advantage at the free-throw line. Plus, even if you’re not shooting very well, you still build a pretty sizable lead when you hold your opponent to sub-30% shooting for a half.
Honestly, I want there to be more to takeaway from tonight, but there just isn’t much we can take from a game against a team this bad. I understand it’s intentional and with a purpose, but Portland tonight put out one of the worst teams I have ever seen on an NBA floor.
If there is one thing to file away for the rest of the year, it’s probably how easily KAT was able to draw fouls. He’s driving to the rim without hesitation now, and he’s gotten very good at hooking his defenders arms on his way there to get himself to the free throw line. He shot 15 free throws in 24 minutes tonight, on his way to 27 points and 13 rebounds.
Aside from that, I guess it was nice to see the Wolves just take care of business against a vastly inferior opponent. With Ant and D’Lo out, it was still nice to be able to just enjoy a stress free game.
Lastly, we’ll be watching for an injury update on Jaylen Nowell, who took a shot to the face from Josh Hart in the first half, that was bizarrely ruled incidental contact. As players are in and out of the lineup, Nowell is an important piece off the bench to add some scoring punch.
All in all, it was a bit of a snoozer tonight, only because of how poor the talent level was for Portland. The Wolves did what they had to do, and now own a five-game winning streak heading into their meeting with the Thunder on Wednesday evening.
Oh yeah, the guys had a little fun, too.