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Wolves 111, Grizzlies 100: Complete Effort Gets Minnesota Back Over .500

Kyle Anderson balled out in big win over his former team

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota Timberwolves Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

As frustrating as it can be, there is one thing you can count on with this Minnesota Timberwolves team, and that’s that they’re going to play to the level of their competition. As head coach Chris Finch likes to say, they can beat anybody and they can lose to anybody. Thankfully, tonight the Wolves were in a “beat anybody” mood against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Seriously though, as lackadaisical as this team can look against the Houston Rockets or Detroit Pistons, you knew that they would show up ready to go tonight. It’s just what they do, and this it was D’Angelo Russell who got everyone going. Russell scored 12 of his 19 points in the opening frame, which really set the tone for Minnesota. D’Lo added 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals to his point total in what was a complete performance for the Wolves point guard. It’s no coincidence he was a team-best +12 in this one.

Russell had help, primarily in the form of Anthony Edwards and Kyle Anderson.

The game is starting to slow down for Edwards, which is just a delight to watch happen in real-time. He’s learning how to trust that the ball will find him. He forced a couple of isolation jumpers at the end of the third quarter, but everything else came so easily and in the flow of the offense. He just let the game come to him, and still posted 25/7/7 and was a +10. Dillon Brooks is a legitimately outstanding wing defender, and he just does not bother Ant at all.

While the totality of Ant’s night was quiet, we would be doing a disservice not to mention that Ant and Jaren Jackson Jr. did meet at the rim, with round one going to Edwards in a knockout.

As for Kyle Anderson, it’s truly hard to find the words to describe just how incredible of a free agent signing he has been. In a game against his old buddies, he made them pay for leaving him alone on offense. Memphis dared him to shoot, and shoot he did. Anderson posted 23 points on 9-16 shooting including 4-7 on threes. You can’t disrespect SloMo’s jumper!

Jokes aside, Anderson is just such a nice safety valve for this team. When teams put two on the ball with Ant, finding Anderson in the middle of the floor with numbers is an surefire way to get an easy bucket. He gets the ball moving with intention, and his teammates clearly trust him. The play of Anderson has made it so that Ant and D’Lo are comfortable getting off the ball in crunch time, knowing that Anderson will find them when the opportunity arises.

Those three were the stars tonight, but we also have to shoutout Rudy Gobert and Jaden McDaniels, who connected on the play of the evening.

When Rudy is throwing exaggerated no-look dimes, you know things are going well.

My favorite part of the night, though, was how this team came out with aggression and didn’t back down. I think there’s a pretty strong argument that JJJ is the best defender in the league, but the Wolves didn’t shy away from him. Instead, they went right at him. Edwards got him in the first quarter, and Naz Reid got him later in the game.

You always have to be smart when challenging an elite defender like that, but it says a lot about the mindset of these guys that they came out ready to attack the rim regardless of who was in their way.

In terms of the big picture, this was just another reminder that there’s still a really good team in here somewhere, if they’re able to tap into it. Everyone played their role, and because of that they earned a win over one of the best teams in the league. These guys are learning how to win together (winners of 10 of their last 14) and some of what they are doing feels sustainable, even when Karl-Anthony Towns returns.

The connection between Anderson and Gobert isn’t going anywhere, and the backcourt has seemingly learned how to appropriately split ball-handling duties. That stuff was all on display tonight, and will be extremely important as the team attempts to make a push up the standings in the coming weeks.

You can feel a sense of belief from the players. This group is still prone to some mind-numbing mistakes, but the totality of their recently play has been pretty encouraging, especially when you consider the reinforcements they have on the way. They’re finally back over .500, with two huge opportunities against the Sacramento Kings on deck.