The Minnesota Timberwolves had two days to bask in the glory of snapping their three-game losing streak after they defeated the shorthanded Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. They ventured 1,000 miles south to face an old nemesis who were also shorthanded, the Orlando Magic.
Would Minnesota be able to vanquish the 25th best team in the league who were without three of their five starters?
Right from the tip, it sure looked like it. The Magic offense looked anything but that, as they were missing the contributions of number one draft pick, Paolo Bachero, and noted Wolves Slayer, Cole Anthony. Though Franz Wagner (18 points) continued in his impressive sophomore campaign, their only other option was to put the ball in the hands of Wendell Carter Jr.’s replacement, Bol Bol (26 points, 12 rebounds). The two of them were able to prance their way to the rim and find success with looping scoop shots and crafty tip-ins throughout the evening, but that was about the best the home team could muster up.
Enter: Anthony Edwards.
Edwards, who has alternated strong and poor performances for most of the season, had an opportunity to sit down with his college coach, Tom Crean, during shootaround. That conversation must have been the stuff of from a Rocky movie.
Anthony Edwards is on fire in front of his former coach, Tom Crean. 11 of the first 15 points. He’s feeeelin’ it. Three treys and one big-time alley-oop jam off the nice lob from D’Lo. Sweet start. Maybe hire Crean as an assistant. #HoopIdea pic.twitter.com/O1BiaMiVQK— John Meyer (@meyerNBA) November 17, 2022
It took less than six minutes into the game before the Wolves had raced out to a double-digit lead. Steady contributions from the Wolves bench, particularly Kyle Anderson and Jordan McLaughlin, help keep things moving both literally and figuratively. An 18-point lead after the first period immediately ballooned up to 25 as Minnesota was getting whatever they wanted, courtesy of swift, unselfish ball movement. Karl-Anthony Towns, who is now 27 years and one day old, picked up the pace with multiple and-ones, proving that wingspan alone was not enough to contain him.
Minnesota would shoot 59.1% from the field to end the first half, sporting a 74-49 halftime lead which they would never relent.
As is usual, the Magic would go on an early fourth quarter run to cut the lead all the way down to single digits thanks to a few triples from 25.6% career three-point shooter, Jalen Suggs (23 points). However, D’Angelo Russell, who was largely absent for the majority of the game, would help guide the Wolves back ahead comfortably. Russell chipped in nine points in a variety of ways while calling a number of plays to get Rudy Gobert the ball. Gobert, ever the steady hand, would slam the door shut by making good on his end of the deal.
Interesting sequence here:— Kyle Theige (@KyleTheige) November 17, 2022
Rudy is upset that no one will pass him the ball, shows frustration, & then doesn’t rotate to protect the rim.
Seems like KAT kinda notices this, & responds by feeding Gobert on back-to-back possessions.
This is how you build chemistry (and trust). pic.twitter.com/kd3FRCR5Ie
Head coach Chris Finch reiterated in the post game presser that the Wolves fourth quarter success was in large part due to Russell’s quarterbacking. One could say D’Lo gathered the tools, KAT set the nail, then Rudy hammered it home. Meanwhile, Edwards was jackhammering holes into the opponent. Those final plays were indicative of a solid all-around effort by Minnesota, taking care of business against a team they very much needed to. The cherry on top was newly re-signed AJ Lawson scoring his first NBA points on a dunk as the bench erupted in celebration.
KAT + Ant + D’Lo get a technical for cheering on AJ Lawson after his first career points, the vibes are so much better now than they were earlier this season pic.twitter.com/leAjyV60rq— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) November 17, 2022
As Edwards spoke with the press after the game, he shared, “I love to see my teammates shine. When they score, they smile... I want to put them in a position to be successful.” This mirrored the comments that Crean had about Edwards during the game.
"I'll never stop being his coach... He's a tremendous human being."— Canis Hoopus (@canishoopus) November 17, 2022
"He's got an incredible heart, he's got an empathy for other people, he's got a great personality and an unbelievable desire to be great."
- Tom Crean, with Katie Storm, on Anthony Edwards
When Canis Hoopus had a chance to ask Edwards how he celebrated Towns’ birthday, he continued by sharing that this victory, which Ant accredited to Towns’ performance, was his birthday present.
I assume that’s exactly what Towns wanted.
Omega - D’Angelo Russell
Though D’Lo finished with just 11 points tonight, nine came in the fourth quarter as mentioned earlier. More notably, he notched 6 assists to just 1 turnover. Hopefully Russell uses his clutch shooting performance to get back on track moving forward.
Delta - Rudy Gobert
Though Rudy’s final box score numbers won’t jump out at you, he still casually put up a 16 point, 8 rebound, 1 assist, and 3 stock line. What stood out the most to me was how often he barked at the Wolves to get back on defense and demanded the ball on offense with no fear of getting hacked. Gobert, who went 6/8 tonight, is now shooting 81.8% from the charity stripe on a solid sample size for the month of November.
Beta - Karl-Anthony Towns
The birthday boy notched 30 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, on .666/.400/1.00 splits. KAT calmly sifted his way through 15 feet and 6 inches of wingspan from the Orlando frontcourt to a monster night. His chemistry with Gobert should and will silence the narrative of “The Twin Towers approach won’t work!” Happy belated birthday, KAT!
Alpha - Anthony Edwards
A season-high 35 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 stocks, on 60% shooting (7/13 3P) and just 1 turnover? Those are silly numbers by Ant. He spoke at length about improving his off-ball defense and finding offensive consistency by not falling in love with jumpers. That should be music to our ears.
Ant on his defense: "I'm tired of being on film off the ball... giving up rebounds, sometimes losing my man going to the other side of the floor. Tonight I was like I don't wanna be on film tomorrow."— Leo S (@Y0Leo) November 17, 2022
Canis Hoopus Comment of the Night
The Wolves will pack their bags and wrap up their four game road trip by visiting the James Harden-less Philadelphia 76ers on Friday 11/19 @ 6:30pm CT. Take a few minutes to relive the last time Minnesota visited Joel Embiid on his home court.