I mean ... a win is a win, yeah?
Our Minnesota Timberwolves did their best to test that belief, but they did pull it together when it mattered against the Houston Rockets. After a truly pathetic start to the game which saw them down by as many as 20 points, the Wolves fought back to get a win on the road. They didn’t play well by any means, but still, they needed to win this one so of course they’ll take it.
My biggest complaint is that because they won, they won’t be “penalized” for showing up entirely unready to play. The way they started this game was absolutely embarrassing, but they got away with it anyways. I’m glad that they were able to add to the win column, but they just cannot continue to overlook opponents. They’re not good enough to do so and get away with it consistently.
With that said, there were a few performances that deserve praise.
First, the duo of Taurean Prince and Kyle Anderson was once again remarkably impactful. Prince had 14 points and 4 assists, and was a +19, while Anderson had 6/6/6/4/1 and was a +15. Those guys are not the stars on this team, but they are among the most impactful and important. They do it in different ways, but every night all they do is help this team win. They’re perfect role players, and the Wolves are very lucky to have them. Good teams have guys like them, and if the Wolves ever do fully turn this ship around, Anderson and Prince will deserve a lot of credit for their efforts.
Not really a secret, but having Kyle Anderson and Taurean Prince back is so huge for the Wolves. The rotation looks so much sharper. Finch can trot out 9-10 guys he trusts that will contribute. Ceiling of the team is on Ant, KAT and Rudy but role players raise the floor.— On The Prowl (@ontheprowl_MN) January 8, 2023
Joining Prince and Anderson on the wing, Jaden McDaniels was outstanding after his first stint. Jaden is really beginning to blossom into not just a fun young player, but just a damn good player, period. He had 12 points tonight, which is pretty average for him, but he had a season-high 9 rebounds as well. His rebounding has traditionally been the area with the most room for improvement, so to see him attack the glass and be an asset there was huge. That’s the type of stuff that takes his game to the next level.
The scoring and rebounding were nice, but what really stood out was just how good his defense was. I know we could talk about that topic pretty much every night, but I never want to take it for granted. He made Jalen Green’s life absolutely miserable for 48 minutes. The up-and-coming Rocket finished with just 9 points on 15 shots as well as three turnovers. McDaniels is just so tough when he can keep his hands to himself, and tonight was yet another example of that.
Huge credit to Jaden McDaniels. He upped the intensity and the rest of the team followed. Maybe the most competitive player on the Wolves.— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) January 9, 2023
Lastly, but certainly not least, Rudy Gobert dominated the second half of that game. Alperen Sengun took it to Gobert to the tune of 18 first half points, so Gobert responded by completely shutting his water off in the second half. I mean that quite literally, as Sengun was scoreless on 0-5 shooting in the second half of the game. Like most of the Wolves, it took Rudy a bit to wake up, but when he did, he took his matchup out of the game and shut down the rim in general.
It wasn’t just Rudy’s defense, though. Once again, we saw his teammates start to find him a bit more, and he continued to reward them for it. Don’t get me wrong, this team is still leaving a lot of meat on the bone as it relates to finding Rudy, but there has been tangible progress made over the course of this four game winning streak. Tonight, that led to Gobert finishing with 18 points on 12 shots and being a +16 in 38 minutes. He’s making the loud plays that make it impossible not to give him the credit he deserves. Frankly, he was just the best player on the floor tonight, same as he was on Friday night against the Los Angeles Clippers. He is beginning to look like the guy that the Wolves figured they were trading for.
Rudy Gobert emphatic dunk to capitalize on the offensive rebound pic.twitter.com/RCCfvZZCoY— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) January 9, 2023
This was a somewhat difficult game to watch, as the Wolves clearly cheated the game a bit and because the Rockets are maybe the worst watch in the league, but you can’t complain too much about wins in this league. That’s especially true when you’re fighting to make up for a rocky start to the season in general. This game had disaster written all over it in the first half, so kudos to the vets for pulling everyone together and getting the ship going in the right direction.
The only other noteworthy item from this game, to me, was just how bad the situation in Houston seems to be for the development of Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr. Both players are oozing with talent, but they need someone on the roster to just be an adult and keep everyone organized. The vast majority of Houston’s offensive possessions just devolve into someone dancing with the ball before hoisting a contested shot. They play really, really poor basketball.
Anyways, the Wolves will look to make it five wins in a row and get back to .500 on the road against the Detroit Pistons Wednesday evening.