The Minnesota Timberwolves welcomed Anthony Edwards into the lineup for the first time in the 2023-24 preseason as they took on the Dallas Mavericks for the second straight game in Abu Dhabi. The Timberwolves were coming off a blowout win, 111-99, against the Mavericks on Thursday afternoon. In that first half of that game, Karl-Anthony Towns served as Minnesota’s primary scorer, finishing with 20 points on 8-of-16 from the floor.
On Saturday, we got a glimpse at the big three of Edwards, Towns, and Rudy Gobert for the first time since the team was eliminated against the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. There has been talk all off-season long regarding structure within Minnesota’s offense and whether the big three can co-exist on the same team.
They did indeed look dynamic in Sunday’s 104-94 Minnesota win over the Dallas.
Chris Finch is starting the second half with Moore Jr., Milton, Brown Jr., Anderson, and Reid.— Charlie Walton (@CharlieWaltonMN) October 7, 2023
Assuming the starters are done.
Great performance from the big three:
Towns: 14 pts, 3 rebs, 2 asts, 4-9 fg
Edwards: 13 pts, 3 asts, 4-9 fg
Gobert: 7 pts, 5 rebs, 3-3 fg, +16
With the Wolves taking a 53-43 lead into halftime and the starters already up to the high teens in playing time (excluding Mike Conley, who only played seven minutes), Head Coach Chris Finch elected to pull the starters for the second half of the game.
Minnesota came out of the gates strong yet again, outscoring Dallas 29-20 in the opening frame. Sure, that wasn’t as impressive as the 37 points the Wolves put up on Thursday to start the game, but the offense still looked like a well-oiled machine.
Many parallels can be drawn between the first and second preseason games, like Towns’ strong starts. With no Edwards in the first game, his dominant offense was to be expected. However, he didn’t take his foot off the gas pedal in game two. He dropped five straight points to open the game. KAT has looked incredibly healthy and confident so far. Not only is he taking what the defense will give him and letting the offense flow naturally, but he’s also making his own scoring opportunities. He has been taking the preseason very seriously, which is something Finch said is a point of emphasis for the whole team.
“That’s a huge point of emphasis,” Finch told The Athletic after Game 1. “We’re going to continue to do it that way through most of the preseason because, after Saturday, we only have three games the rest of the whole time. If we don’t get something out of these games, you’re risking putting yourself behind the eight ball.”
The Wolves were three steps ahead of the Mavs on both sides of the ball through the combined 96 minutes of game time in Abu Dhabi. They look like a team that doesn’t want a repeat of last season, where they come out of the gates sluggish and not on the same page. Most, if not all, of the early season struggles last season were primarily due to the team getting adjusted to sharing the floor with Gobert.
Last season, Gobert looked out of sorts at times. Minnesota’s primary ball handlers had issues hitting the seven-footer in spots where he could do something of value. Not to mention, Rudy was nursing a knee injury he suffered in the EuroBasket Tournament when he was playing for France that summer. However, things appear to be different this season.
Gobert seems healthier and more confident than ever.
Gobert just made Dereck Lively II look like a fourth grader out there -- backed him down and threw it down.— Charlie Walton (@CharlieWaltonMN) October 7, 2023
Rudy is looking much more confident and healthy in the low post. https://t.co/iMwJhGkdQ8
We’ve talked about dynamic offense all summer, and most of those discussions have been centered around Ant and KAT. I even wrote about how they need to co-lead their team’s offense. Of course, it will be important to prioritize those two getting buckets, but the Stifle Tower will also be able to add another level to the team’s offense, should they utilize his skill set correctly.
The connection between Gobert, Towns, and Reid looks much improved so far. The spacing seems fluid, and players aren't in each other's way.— Charlie Walton (@CharlieWaltonMN) October 5, 2023
When sharing the floor with either Reid or Towns, Gobert has been used as an almost safety valve when players are attacking the paint.
During Thursday’s game, I noticed Gobert floating lower in the paint than he did last season. This allowed for better spacing between him and whoever he was sharing the front-court with (I.e., Towns or Naz Reid).
As the Wolves welcomed Edwards back on Saturday, Rudy was along the perimeter setting screens much more often. Again, this provided fluid spacing amongst the starting five. That will need to continue this season if the Wolves hope to get the most out of Edwards, who, as we all know, loves to attack the rim.
Anthony Edwards is a BAAAD man.— Charlie Walton (@CharlieWaltonMN) October 7, 2023
He caps off the first frame with a shake-and-bake spinning fade away with the defense draped all over him.
Wolves lead 29, 20 https://t.co/lTISlcRHeN
Edwards had a cool, calm, and collected first preseason game, finishing with a sneaky 13-point effort. Aside from his turn-around bucket to end the first quarter, he didn’t give the crowd many loud reactions, which we became accustomed to in the 2023 FIBA World Cup. However, it was still nice to see the 22-year-old out there hooping in his fresh new number five.
Following Saturday’s game that somehow turned into a nail-biter, the Wolves will fly back to the Twin Cities and have a full week off from games before the team has to hop back on the plane and head to the Big Apple for a matchup against the New York Knicks next Saturday, October 14. Tip-off for that game will be at 6:30 p.m. CT.
Streaming will be available on NBA TV.