You are not alone in your recovery from watching the Minnesota Timberwolves starters Sunday night.
There’s no other way around it; the nearly full-staffed Wolves were out-willed and outplayed but a drastically shorthanded and beat up San Antonio Spurs team. San Antonio was down Josh Richardson, Jeremy Sochan, and Devin Vassell. But none of that prevented Minnesota’s inability to guard Doug McDermott, and sluggish movement to go for rebounds on their own end.
Ant's defensive rotations tonight pic.twitter.com/WHPsHOHFoZ— Canis Hoopus (@canishoopus) October 31, 2022
The box score shows a 16-14 advantage for Minnesota on the offensive glass, but does not show the asterisk on the 14 that notes that the number should have been smaller. It does, however, note a couple further things that decided the game.
A Forgettable First Half
A few quick stats from the first half that will make your stomach churn:
- 18-49 from the field (36.7%)
- 1-14 from 3 (7.1%)
- Anthony Edwards: 0-7 FG
- D’Angelo Russell: 0-3 3P, 2 turnovers
Through it all, it was just a 10-point game at the half. Without mentioning the 7-0 run San Antonio went on coming out of the half, it was a sluggish start to say the least.
One positive to point out is a big first quarter by Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns had 15, saw a lot of single coverage early, and got aggressive.
Karl-Anthony Towns 1st Quarter vs. the San Antonio Spurs:— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) October 30, 2022
6/8 on 2PA
1/2 on 3PA pic.twitter.com/xavlFvVGvB
“It was the first time I saw single coverage all year,” Towns said after the game. “I wanted to make them pay.”
Towns joined the rest of the team and tapered off after a strong first quarter. In meaningful time, he shot an uncharacteristic 8-17 from the field (not counting the two bunny layups after the game was over).
The bench unit again provided a major spark in the third and fourth quarters and dug the Wolves out of the hole that the starters created early on. A major part of that was the energy that Naz Reid brought, complimented by Anthony Edwards arriving to the party with the group (to poke the bear, he did talk about playing with small lineups).
“That unit was great,” Finch said. “They looked good in their zone and they got out and moved the ball. They had great spacing.”
Reid complimented Edwards’ 11 fourth quarter points with nine of his own on 4-5 shooting, including a crucial put-back to bring what was a 19-point deficit to just a couple possessions for the starters to close it out.
“Naz was really, really good. We...maybe should’ve stuck with that lineup a little bit longer. I went back [to the starters] and we really kind of went flat again.” Finch said.
the world is yours, NAZ REID pic.twitter.com/fYwPQp1gEl— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) October 31, 2022
Finding the Balance
It was a struggle bus for the starters with another pick-me-up from the bench. If I haven’t beat the dead horse enough, the starters were deployed back into the fourth quarter with just a five-point deficit on the board; a hole that was filled in by the Reid-Edwards lineup in the third that was largely a disadvantage that was trending towards a 20-ball.
KAT proceeded to get pegged with a -2, Gobert, who struggled mightily with -4, and the rest was history. Finch mentioned he would have maybe liked to leave the unit that was clicking in a little longer, but they used a lot of energy and he wanted to continue to look for synergy in the star-studded starting lineup.
“I think the first unit has the ability to establish a flow. What they haven’t had is the ability to maintain a flow. They’re not recognizing what the game needs.”
There’s time to figure it out...but something tells me impatience will grow a little bit quicker than it did with last year’s squad that started out 4-9.
It won’t get any easier, as the Wolves will head to Phoenix Sunday night for a 9:00 PM CT Tuesday tilt in the desert against a Suns team that has wins against the Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Pelicans in two of its past three.