Something about the night before Thanksgiving with the Minnesota Timberwolves is just a little bit different, it seems. Winners of four of their last five “Drunksgiving” slobber-knockers heading into Wednesday, the Wolves had a rich opportunity to keep it rolling. They did so, and made it five straight on the should-be national holiday before the national holiday, and extended their home record to an unblemished 7-0.
Why was the opportunity so rich? The Philadelphia 76ers rolled into Minneapolis on the second leg of back-to-back, lugging a load of heavy minutes on its starters after an overtime loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. On top of that, they were without their star player.
76ers star Joel Embiid will miss today’s road game vs. Timberwolves on second night of back-to-back due to left hip soreness, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. It will be the reigning NBA MVP’s first absence of the season for 10-4 Philadelphia.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 22, 2023
“I thought it was a real good professional effort,” Head Coach Chris Finch said afterwards.
Professional; a great choice of words for a team that last year, would have potentially let this one slip, and not seized its opportunities or on-court advantages.
Predictably, size ended up being the mismatch that proved to be the ultimate decision in favor of the Wolves. Paul Reed was biggest player for Philadelphia in its rotation, standing at 6-foot-9. Not only did it allow for Minnesota’s bigs to control the game, but with Philly loading up the paint, it opened things up for Anthony Edwards to get his shot working.
Philadelphia played small ball. Contrary to last season, the Wolves are now finding a streamlined way to punish that.
Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns set the tone for most of the night and matched each other with double doubles. Towns specifically was phenomenal offensively.
Perennially struggling with smaller defenders at the point of attack last season, Towns had a Robert Covington matchup for most of the night Wednesday and abused it. He was able to open shots up for himself, but also set himself up by going downhill and receiving the ball in stride. He finished with 23 points, 11 boards, and shot the ball from three point range just two times.
Karl-Anthony Towns rolling dunk pic.twitter.com/vBIvLTzl2A— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) November 23, 2023
Gobert was a little bit more up-and-down on the offensive end, bobbling the ball and struggling to get a consistent handle, but finished strong and was excellent yet again at paint deterrence.
Minnesota won the points in the paint battle 58-44, and held the tired 76ers to just 39% shooting on the entire evening; their lowest percentage on the year.
Not only was Anthony Edwards a large beneficiary of the size disadvantage the Wolves presented, but also put on a clinic of tough shotmaking in the first half.
There were periods in the game where it seemed as though the door was open for Philadelphia to creep back into it. A 17-point first quarter lead quickly shrunk to single digits in the second, and into the third quarter, with the Wolves sputtering offensively. It never got too close to the point of concern, and Edwards seized control when warranted. He operated a lot out of the mid-range in the first half, and came out firing from downtown more in the second.
Anthony Edwards PnR pull-up 3 pic.twitter.com/AejWqmBoWS— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) November 23, 2023
“We talked today about a little more catch and shoots in general,” Finch said. [Ant is] so good at it, and I think he forgets how good he is.”
Perhaps he does. Being at 18 points at the end of the first half certainly helps you get a little bit more freedom with your shot selection, however.
Edwards added six assists to his total and notched a +19; good for second on the team behind Nickeil Alexander-Walker (+22).
The Wolves will host their first game of the In-Season Tournament at Target Center and show off the new floor.
Here is the new court the Timberwolves will have for their Group C home games during the in-season tournament.— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) October 30, 2023
It will debut on Friday, November 24 vs the Kings and also be used Tuesday November 28 vs the Thunder. pic.twitter.com/obw41oqQON
A win against the Sacramento Kings on Friday would punch the Wolves’ ticket to the quarterfinals of the In-Season Tournament, as Minnesota has already gathered wins against the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs.
If they won both on Friday and next Tuesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Wolves would host that quarterfinal on either Monday, December 4 or Tuesday, December 5. A win there would send them to Las Vegas for the semifinals the same weekend that the Minnesota Vikings take on the Las Vegas Raiders in Sin City.