MINNEAPOLIS — A somewhat familiar script played out in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ second matchup against the Houston Rockets on Saturday night. They created a double-digit hole before digging their way out to victory over a directionless 10-win Rockets group lost on the tanking road to Wembyland.
Again, the Wolves struggled mightily to rebound or protect the paint. “-26 on the glass,” said Finch, both frustrated but unsurprised especially without his injured two All-Star centers in Karl-Anthony Towns or Rudy Gobert. “We got absolutely crushed there.”
The difference in this Houston Round 2 script? Anthony Edwards starred in one of the most brilliant games of his young career. He was astonishing. He was All-Star Ant.
A poster dunk over the immensely skilled Rocket’s center, Alperen Sengun, followed by a Jaden McDaniels steal and lay-up on the following inbounds pass injected some much-needed life into the team before the break. Edwards went to halftime with 19 points, but without much help from anyone other than D’Angelo Russell. They came out snoring in the third, allowing Houston to go on an 11-3 run before a Finch timeout.
Then, the Ant show continued. He hit three after three. Drove powerful downhill to the rim. He was attacking with authority. And then Edwards did it again. A second massive dunk over Sengun made everyone in the building go absolutely wild in what should end up being a dunk of the year candidate. 17,000 people were talking about murder.
“HIDE YOUR WIFE, HIDE YOUR KIDS,” yelled Wolves’ play-by-play announcer Michael Grady on the telecast. Edwards didn’t stop there. His 25 second half points yielded a season-high 44 points and the third-highest scoring game of his career.
“My girlfriend’s birthday is in two days and she’s going out of the country so had to put a show on for her,” Edwards said during his on-court postgame interview before a raucous crowd that just finished belting “MVP” chants. (Edwards ripped 49 points vs the Spurs last season and 48 vs. Golden State as well as his two highest scoring performances.)
“He was special today. Both ends of the floor really,” said Finch.
ANTHONY EDWARDS HAS ONCE AGAIN MURDERED ALPEREN SENGUN AT THE RIM WITH AUTHORITY. TARGET CENTER EXPLODES. pic.twitter.com/f78AMMOcIN— John Meyer (@meyerNBA) January 22, 2023
44 PTS— NBA (@NBA) January 22, 2023
Anthony Edwards. Hooper. pic.twitter.com/p71PULXskx
"He was special today. Both ends of the floor really."#Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch talks about Anthony Edwards' big night in the win over the Rockets. #RaisedByWolves pic.twitter.com/djpWjKFVOU— Bally Sports North (@BallySportsNOR) January 22, 2023
The Rockets turnovers (21 to Minnesota’s 11) combined with Jalen Green’s ability to shoot his team out of any game were two other large parts of the Wolves’ 113-104 win—Green was at 41.3% on almost 18 attempts per game before the rough 3-13 night that included six turnovers. He was also coming off a career-high 41 points. That’s the rocky life of the Houston youth these days, aside from the burgeoning star they have in Sengun.
Almost two weeks after Edwards said “Me personally, I think they need to build around number 28,” Sengun put up another massive stat line. 19 points, 16 rebounds, 7 dimes, and 3 blocks. Edwards’ monster dunks might’ve overshadowed his performance, but Sengun is showing that he’s the real deal, and Ant was right. Build around him. For all of Houston’s issues, they have a legitimate Young Jokic type talent, only 20-years-old, at the five spot.
Gobert remained out for the third straight game with right groin soreness after going through pre-game warmups to see if he could go. His rim protection has been badly missed but there’s optimism his return should happen soon. Taurean Prince, a crucial member to the bench and one of the true leaders on this team, exited the game with a left ankle sprain and did not return. The injury-riddled Wolves can’t afford for that to be a serious injury to Prince, either, or they’ll have to look deep down the bench once again.
Injuries do create opportunities, however, and this was a Nate Knight night. The little-used reserve forward—logging 138 minutes entering the evening—poured in 19 off the bench. He was 5-9 from the field, including 2-2 from deep, and 7-8 from the line. Knight even gave Houston the business in transition with a beautiful euro-step into a ferocious dunk.
“We have a three-headed center [with Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert out],” said Chris Finch. That monster includes Naz Reid, Luka Garza, and Knight. And this was Knight’s time to feast. “I don’t think I’d be where I am right now without Luka and Naz,” said Knight. “All summer we were here—Naz, Jaden—getting better. Luka comes in and fits like a glove. We are pretty much the same person mentally in how we approach the game.”
Russell also finished with an excellent in-control game that shouldn’t be glossed over either. 23 points, 8 assists, and only two turnovers in 31 minutes.
Nate Knight coast-to-coast transition dunk pic.twitter.com/OnJBiN1Q5a— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) January 22, 2023
Anthony Edwards was the sensational superstar we believe he can be. “He’s the head of the snake when it comes to the Minnesota Timberwolves as of right now,” said Knight. “Him along with a couple other guys. When Ant speaks up, you gotta listen.”
We were all living in Ant World tonight. And what a special place it was to be.