Soon, very soon, in fact, it will be time to dive head first into the Grizzlies matchup. For one more day (or morning) though, I wanted to reflect back on all of the little things that happened on Tuesday, and how they might factor in moving forward.
I’m still somewhat struggling to compartmentalize what happened on Tuesday, because that’s just not the type of thing that happens to us. This time is finally different, though, and it made me think of a tweet from Britt Robson that has guided me throughout the season.
I get shrewdness of fallback cynical position vis a vis the Wolves--the track record alone nearly demands it. But I'd still rather get my hopes up that I'll be covering better hoops this year--my genuine assessment--then stay dour against my instincts. Let's risk a good attitude.— brittrobson (@brittrobson) October 5, 2021
Thanks to the guys mentioned below, risking a good attitude has paid off. Maybe we should even try this bold strategy in our normal day-to-day lives.
Anyways, there were obvious, big things to take away like Ant’s arrival, D’Angelo Russell’s overall steadiness, or Pat Bev doing Pat Bev things, but it was the Wolves play on the margins that propelled them to victory. Doing the little things right add up.
First, I have to give credit to Malik Beasley. He experienced a roller coaster of a season, but gradually found his way. By season’s end, Beas was playing the best basketball of his career in my opinion, at least as it pertains to winning and being part of a good team. That continued Tuesday night.
Of course, Malik did what he always does and knocked down some HUGE threes, but he also played solid defense, and most importantly in my opinion, was a plus on the backboards. His six rebounds were a huge boost for a team that often struggles to rebound. Beasley is unafraid, and is a player who seems to thrive in big moments. His mere presence is so vital to the offense, so his growth in the other areas makes him a massive plus for the Wolves. If you’ve been following long enough, you’ll know Malik is one of my favorite Wolves, and at this point I’m just happy for him that he’s gotten it together. Good for him.
Up next, the long, rangy guys who hounded Paul George for 48 minutes. Jarred Vanderbilt and Jaden McDaniels BATTLED, man. George is a great, great player, so he still hit some tough ones, but those two really gave him nothing easy the whole night. The Wolves genuinely could not have asked for more from them the other night, and they showed that the moment won’t be too big for them.
For Vanderbilt, it was finding a way to make his presence felt even if he wasn’t being guarded. He hit the glass and dialed it up on defense. As was the theme of the night, he faced adversity and adjusted. He responded.
For Jaden, it was really just about continuing to be who he is. He didn’t get a great whistle on George, in my opinion, but his ability to defend without fouling was still pretty remarkable. He has learned to defend without using his hands when it’s not necessary, and it’s made him not only a better player, but one who is available for his team more often.
Ja Morant presents his own set of problems, but these defenders will be ready for whatever Morant and the Grizzlies throw at them.
The last guy I wanted to give a lot of credit to was Naz Reid. Naz was put in what would normally be an unfair position, as Karl-Anthony Towns getting into foul trouble pushed him into more run then he’d normally see in a game like that. All Naz did was play under control, composed, and smart. The pass he threw to Malik Beasley at the end of the third quarter was one of the under the radar great plays of the game. He held his own defensively, which is generally the biggest question mark with him. Naz was a +17 in 20 minutes last night. He impacted winning in a way that I honestly wasn’t sure he could. He showed up and stepped up when it mattered most.
In general, what Tuesday night taught me is that this team’s confidence from the regular season isn’t going anywhere. They’re not going to blink in the face of adversity. It is incredible the way the rest of the team held their composure as the big fella fell apart. The Wolves survived possibly the worst game of Towns’ entire career because everyone else stepped up, and that ability, mentality, and quality will serve them well moving forward regardless of how the next series ends.