A Minnesota Timberwolves team down three starters wrapped up their preseason slate with a 114-105 win against the Chicago Bulls Thursday night at the United Center.
The late scratches of Mike Conley (illness) and Karl-Anthony Towns (knee soreness) were felt right away in the first half. Offensive sluggishness reminiscent of last year’s Wolves could be observed early. The ball-movement was limited and the 3-point accuracy was pretty shaky from players not named Anthony Edwards. Turnovers also proved to be an issue without Conley in the game.
oh, he's not playing fair. pic.twitter.com/G2hiGhJxFu— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) October 20, 2023
Despite the slowish start, Anthony Edwards’ heroics and a solid team-wide defensive effort proved to be enough to make it through the half relatively unscathed. Rudy Gobert also looked plenty comfortable out there against his matchup, Nikola Vucevic. Along with the helpful contributions from Kyle Anderson, Naz Reid, and Shake Milton, Minnesota headed to the locker room after two quarters up 52-51.
The Timberwolves clearly approached the third quarter with a different tone. Minnesota looked fantastic the entire third quarter and by the end lengthened their lead on the Bulls to 12. The lineup to begin the half did not include Gobert or Edwards, both of whom played really well earlier in the game and sat the final 24 minutes to avoid any injury. Naz Reid, Jordan McLaughlin, Troy Brown Jr., and Luka Garza in particular each played with a purpose and an evident synergy with their respective lineups that the Bulls’ solid defense could not slow down.
To start the fourth, Head Coach Chris Finch decided to roll out a rotation of deep-bench guys that resembled the starters from Minnesota’s previous preseason game against Maccabi Ra’anana. The lineup Dashien Nix, Wendell Moore, Josh Minott, Leonard Miller, and Luka Garza looked terrific in these minutes.
This five-man group was able to hold the team’s lead against Chicago’s starters and played well as a group. Garza proved again that he is an all-out force from the block to the 3-point line. Minott’s ability to be in the right spots and finish plays was on full display. Even Wendell Moore, who has struggled to find his role as a player so far in his career, looked confident and poised.
good luck guarding this. pic.twitter.com/sF59ZnRUcy— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) October 20, 2023
Let’s get into the takeaways.
It is hard to overstate how good Edwards looked in his sole half of basketball. At the rim, Edwards was unstoppable. From the mid-range and 3-point areas, Edwards was hitting nothing-but-nylon. Edwards already being in mid-season form in preseason is very exciting, as he’s known for having slower starts to seasons. In addition to the scoring, Edwards’ passing this game looked great. One play that stands out amongst the rest is a one-handed over-the-head lob to Gobert coming off a screen. The synergy that Edwards and Gobert displayed in that moment is something we had seen almost none of last season. Of all the moments from Edwards in this game, that lob was perhaps the highlight that sticks out the most.
Ant ended his preseason with a terrific showing of 19 points on 8/13 shooting (2/4 3PT), five rebounds and an assist in 20 minutes of action.
Everyone is gonna talk about the Ant dunk in this game. But this is the Ant play from this one that I’ll remember.— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) October 20, 2023
I’ve seen Ant dunk before. I haven’t seen this. (Ant only had 21 total assists to Gobert last season.) pic.twitter.com/DTAP50gMZc
Troy Brown Jr.
Another player that impressed was Troy Brown Jr. In a lot of ways, the addition of Brown Jr. this summer was seen as a Taurean Prince replacement that probably wouldn’t be a mainstay rotation piece when the team was fully healthy and/or using a nine-man rotation instead of a 10-man crew. However, Brown so far this preseason has looked like he could be so much more. This stretch of good preseason play from Brown culminated with a legitimately awesome performance in Chicago. Brown’s shooting, playmaking, defense, and overall feel for Finch’s system might demand more of a role for him. It will be interesting to see how Finch’s rotations end up shaping out as the season goes on and how Brown might fit into that.
The former Oregon star finished with 12 points on 4/5 3-point shooting to go along with three rebounds and an assist.
Troy Brown Jr buries back-to-back threes— Timberwolves Nation (@TWolvesNationCP) October 20, 2023
TBJ is 3-of-4 from downtown!
Next week the Minnesota Timberwolves travel north (but really east) of the border to play the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, October 25 at 6:30 PM CT. Towns and Conley are likely to return to the lineup for the season opener with McDaniels’ availability being unknown.