No Shai Gilgeous-Alexander meant going against an OKC starting lineup that included Tre Mann, Lu Dort, Kenrich Williams, Josh Giddey, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. In other words, mostly unknown youngsters or fringe roster guys, and the well-established Giddey.
The Timberwolves were shot out of a cannon to start the game, with the whole starting lineup recording a made basket in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the contest. It was Anthony Edwards who really left his mark on the first quarter.
Anthony Edwards dominant 1st quarter performance, completely unguardable pic.twitter.com/fXuo8NGrIX— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) October 24, 2022
Edwards had a mini-explosion in the opening frame, putting up 12 points, and earning most of his buckets in the paint against the undersized OKC frontcourt.
As you can see in the clip above, Edwards was completely unguardable in the first quarter, making quick work of whoever the Thunder put in front of him, whether it via iso, or off a pass from D'Angelo Russell, he cooked anyone and everyone OKC threw at him.
It appeared as if the Wolves were on their way to an easy win over the Thunder, outscoring OKC 31-18 in the first quarter and dominating the game offensively as much as they did defensively.
The Thunder responded in the second quarter, taking a team-oriented approach and getting contributions from all over the roster, with six players contributing to the OKC scoring total.
The second quarter is when a disturbing inability to make the three-point shot came into focus for the Wolves. Minnesota shot only 2/10 from beyond the arc in the first half. Despite players like Edwards, Towns, Russell, and others who are all above-average shooters, the Wolves couldn’t shoot a pea in the ocean in the first half.
The struggles from beyond the arc were not just on Minnesota’s side. Oklahoma City shot a putrid 4/17 from 3 in the first half, and if Steph Curry happened to be watching this random Thunder-Timberwolves game in late October, he probably would have been crying in the first half.
Despite the struggles of his teammates, Ant was outstanding yet again in the second quarter, scoring seven more points and quietly dominating on the boards, adding to a total that would get all the way up to eleven by the end of the game.
Anthony Edwards aggressive transition drive + powerful euro + reverse layup pic.twitter.com/g3iseBGIUb— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) October 24, 2022
The only place Edwards was ineffective in the first half was from behind the 3-point line, but as we will go into later, that turned itself around in a major way later in the contest.
Minnesota’s lack of three-point shooting allowed the rag-tag Thunder to stay in the game, winning the 2nd quarter-scoring battle 26-22, and cutting the Timberwolves' lead down to just nine points heading into halftime.
The third quarter brought more of the same for both teams, with OKC somehow battling to keep the game close despite Josh Giddey joining Gilgeous-Alexander on the sideline early in the quarter with a sprained ankle.
At this point, the absence of Russell in the Timberwolves' offense started to stand out. Russell was a no-show in the first half after having two outstanding games to start the season.
As the Thunder slowly chipped away at the Minnesota lead, Russell’s lack of impact became louder and louder, with the normally aggressive DLo taking only five shots all game, with three of them coming in the first quarter. For example, Russell played the same amount of minutes as teammate Jaden McDaniels, but watching the game you wouldn’t have known it. McDaniels was regularly making plays on both offense and defense, and Russell faded into the game throughout.
Overall, this down game for DLo comes down to shot attempts, but seeing the typically trigger-happy Russell take only three shots in the same amount of quarters just felt weird.
The Timberwolves as a whole just seemed to fade in and out over the first three quarters, and with their opponent being an SGAless, eventually, Giddeyless OKC team, who can blame them?
During one of the times when Minnesota was seemingly sleepwalking through the game, Oklahoma City fought all the way back and got the Wolves’ lead down to one, but whenever OKC would start to threaten, Minnesota would turn on the jets and stretch the lead back out.
The third quarter was one without much action. Outside of a few Anthony Edwards flash plays, the quarter mostly consisted of the Thunder getting within a few points, and then the Wolves would stretch it back out.
Anthony Edwards PnR drive + euro + lefty finish, wow pic.twitter.com/5TcuWVYCNI— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) October 24, 2022
The fourth quarter was the exact opposite of the third.
The Timberwolves took over in the fourth quarter. With heavy contributions from Ant, and Naz Reid in particular, Minnesota made the patched-together Thunder roster look like the junior high team who showed up to high school practice.
Anthony Edwards tough side-step midrange jumper pic.twitter.com/eie6ON4sq0— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) October 24, 2022
Despite letting OKC hang around for three quarters, Minnesota stepped on the gas in the fourth, stretching their lead all the way to 22 points before the reserves came in, and the tough-minded Thunder got the deficit down to ten, although don’t let the final score fool you, the Wolves dominated this game whenever they felt like it.
This was a game that the Timberwolves needed to dominate, and at times they did, and these Timberwolves are a good enough team to play with their prey before going in for the kill, but later in the season, Minnesota will need to be more consistent and disciplined when playoff seeding is on the line.
For now, the Timberwolves are 2-1, and they are a whole lot better than Oklahoma City.