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Wolves 123, Hornets 117: Minnesota’s Bigs Score 77 Points To Secure Road W

Karl-Anthony Towns led the way with 28 points, while Rudy Gobert added 26 and Naz Reid scored 23 more off the bench to lead Minnesota over Charlotte.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Simply put, here’s the summary in a few sentences: the Minnesota Timberwolves had Rudy Gobert. The Charlotte Hornets did not. The Timberwolves had Naz Reid. The Hornets didn’t. The Hornets also didn’t have LaMelo Ball, and yet, it was still a close game because the Wolves gave up way too many points in transition and fouled a lot at inopportune times.

To many, that reads like a recap from the past, the seasons that had fans ripping their hair out with how easy it was to expect a loss even when winning. This team, however, has the opposite reputation so far. And that became abundantly clear on a few plays as the fourth quarter became more and more nail-biting.

Before it even got to that point, the Wolves opened up the game with an immediate 10 point lead as part of a first quarter that saw the Hornets trail for its entirety. This was a lead built despite a lot of early fouling from Karl-Anthony Towns, who picked up his third halfway through the second quarter and sat the rest of the half. But in this first quarter, the Wolves limit the Hornets to sub-40% shooting and only 23 points. It seemed good. It seemed like a quick coast to a win on a Saturday night in December.

Then, Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier slowly started turning this around. It was during this stretch that I complained about Kyle Anderson to the Canis group chat only to watch as he turned around and created three straight buckets to pull the Wolves back into it. Slow-Mo has struggled with confidence on shot attempts all year, but seemingly overcame that for stretches today. However, the biggest hero of this half was Naz Reid, who scored 14 in the first half.

And yet, the Wolves lead by only one possession at half. How did that happen? Well, Micah Nori explained it. And he did not sound happy.

Turnovers and fast break points were what eviscerated a once double-digit lead. That’s exactly what the issue has been with the Wolves of old. Not just the 2021 Wolves, who lacked discipline, but also the 2019 Wolves who managed to drag themselves into the loss column through sheer bad decision making.

That’s why this Wolves team has been so mythologized already this season. This team dragged a team that was shooting horribly, with the exception of Gobert, who was dunking everything, and KAT, who returned in the second half to a ton of success, to a win. In years past, with teams past, this would have been a slow waterslide to misery. Instead, Troy Brown Jr. crashed for an offensive rebound and was rewarded with a clutch time three. Then, it was Gobert swatting a shot from Nick Richards after Kyle Anderson had fouled out starter Mark Williams. Then, after that block, it was Mike Conley Jr. with an and-one fast break layup.

Wolves fans or, at least, I am completely unprepared for a team with this level of workmanship and stability. There’s still issues on this roster that will need to be solved. The shooting from deep hovers at the league mean because the Wolves shoot league average every night. They lack an extra gear on offense because they can’t just hit streaks of being on fire from deep. The offense itself hits periods where it just vanishes. Additionally, there was hope that the Wolves would have depth this year. Instead, the Wolves were forced to play an eight man rotation without Edwards and McDaniels and Shake Milton continues to be less than stellar. Anderson, despite glimpses of last year’s Slow-Mo, continues to lack a scoring instinct or the confidence to pursue one. This team may need to make a consolidation trade to find another real rotation piece.

But, honestly, none of that matters. The Wolves continue to come in, work hard, and pull out wins. They’ve spent the early season doing so with suffocating half court defense. That makes nights like tonight, where the Hornets shot nearly 50% from deep and had 11 offensive rebounds, so impressive. The regular game plan did not work. The best player on the team was out with injury. There was a challenge late that inexplicably did not go their way. And the Wolves persevered. They fought. That’s new for this franchise. And somehow, it’s lost its sheen of new-ness. This is who the Wolves are now. They take care of business. And they took care of it tonight, 123-117.

The Timberwolves’ bigs combined for 77 points, a season-high for this trio:

  • Karl-Anthony Towns — 28 points on 12/23 FG, seven rebounds, five assists, one block
  • Rudy Gobert — season-high 26 points on 10/12 FG, 12 rebounds, three blocks
  • Naz Reid — 23 points on 9/14 FG, five rebounds, two assists

Up Next

The Wolves will return home for their first national TV game of the season, as they’ll host Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday. Fans can watch the 7 PM CT tip on ESPN.

Game Highlights