“Have no fear. Naz Reid.”
That’s what Kyle Anderson yelled in the background of the locker room while Reid spoke to media after his play late in the game led the Minnesota Timberwolves over the Golden State Warriors 119-114 in overtime.
The beloved underdog big man perfectly embodied his team’s spirit in a 14-point comeback win over the defending champs. After missing a jumper, he got his own rebound and threw down a monster dunk to put the exclamation point on the grittiest win of the season.
“It was great, electrifying. Everybody was on their feet, and that’s something that we need from the fans, man. Just keep up that momentum they give us,” Reid said in the locker room postgame. “We’re all fighting, we’re all in the same boat. We’re all on the same team. Just keep that up.”
It felt like Minnesota couldn’t hit a big shot all night long. Earlier in the game, things went back and forth largely because both teams coughed up the basketball in laughable ways to fuel easy transition offense, and each side struggled to score efficiently in the half-court. After a slow start for his young center playing in place of Rudy Gobert (right groin soreness), Reid passed up a few open shots. Wolves Head Coach Chris Finch made sure Reid knew at halftime to let it rip.
“At half, coach told me I needed to lock in. He told me to go to work. That’s exactly what he said, ‘go to work,’” Reid said. “I felt like I had the green light from there, so I just did what I do best. And it’s a side most people didn’t see yet. So I got a lot more.”
And when the big moments arrived, Reid wasn’t shy.
The fourth-year dynamo put up nine shots in the fourth quarter, starting it the way he ended the game — he didn’t let a bad shot stop him from getting off the mat and coming back with a haymaker. Even with one of the greatest defenders of all-time in his crosshairs, Reid didn’t blink.
“I see anybody, I’m not backing down,” Reid said. “Like I told you before, the confidence in my team and coaches, man. If I see you, I’m goin at you. That’s just what it is.”
He wanted to send a message going at Draymond Green and Kevon Looney.
“That’s a team that’s not gonna back down. They’re accustomed to winning,” Reid explained to Canis Hoopus in the locker room. “When we bring it to ‘em early, man, that just shows that we’re not here to back down, we’re really here to fight.”
That mentality carried him throughout. Reid went on to alternate missing and making shots until he delivered the biggest one of the night with just under two minutes.
Reid then went on to miss two 3s in the final minute of the game — both great looks. And once the contest progressed into overtime, he had to leave the game for a few possessions after taking an elbow from a Warriors defender before coming back in to seal a win and cap off a night with 24 points, 13 rebounds and four assists.
Not only is Reid a player capable of turning the tide of games for this team, but he is at the core of the culture the Wolves are cultivating: a gritty guy who loves the little things, is extremely unselfish, and leaves everything out there. It’s why his teammates love him, the roof of Target Center nearly blew off, and the Timberwolves woke up in the No. 8 spot this morning after four wins in eight nights against Western Conference playoff teams.
There isn’t a guard in the league that has shot the ball better than D’Angelo Russell has on his volume since December 1. When he finds a rhythm, he engulfs a defense with the flames of a five-alarm fire ready to explode a building with a dangerous, unpredictable energy. And when opponents start to feel the heat in the biggest moments, Russell has feels right at home with ice water flowing through his veins.
Like he has so often this season, Russell came alive in the fourth after struggling in the third. He started the final frame alongside Austin Rivers, Jaden McDaniels, Anderson and Reid, and got back on track almost instantly. D’Lo drilled five of his first six shots, including four massive 3s, to erase a an 14-point Warriors lead in the first 5:28 of the quarter.
Video courtesy of @Timberwolves on Twitter
Anderson, Rivers and Reid drove it well, which helped Russell attack a spread floor and find a rhythm mixing his on-ball reps with time spent off of it.
“It’s huge for me because when I first got in the league I struggled to find a balance between passing and scoring. Knowing I can score the ball at the rate that I can score and knowing I can control the game at a rate as well, I’m trying to balance out being in that position and just dominating the ball,” Russell told Canis Hoopus postgame. “I always tried to calculate that balance between my game. Having Kyle Anderson and Austin and the way our system is flowing, it allows me to play and make high IQ plays off the ball. I enjoy the game a lot like that.”
He’s shooting more catch-and-shoot 3s than he ever has, and he’s thriving in a newfound role as a deadly marksman from deep because of his time spent off-ball alongside capable drivers and ball movers.
“It’s huge for guys that are catch-and-shoot guys as well,” Russell added. “To find looks like that throughout the game is key for us. I’m not doing anything special. I’m just getting there and hoping the ball finds me. We’ve got some key guys around here that you ask for a lot of attention to try to stop them. It forces them to help and we’ve got some shooters that can knock it down, too. It complements our team.”
Russell scoring 14 of his team-high 29 points certainly complemented his co-stars in Reid and Anthony Edwards. We’ll evaluate what was a tough defensive night for him at another time, but his long-range shooting buoyed an offense that shot just 7/33 (21%) from deep outside of his 7/17 effort, and his unflappable demeanor gave his teammates a belief in their chance to complete a daunting comeback against the defending champs.
A Familiar Face
There aren’t many players on the planet who understand what it takes to slow down Stephen Curry better than Austin Rivers. Between his stops with the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets, the veteran stopper has experienced the two-time MVP’s rise and dominance up close for the better part of the last decade.
After seeing the 2022 Finals MVP get loose for 21 points on 5/7 shooting from 3 in the first half, a determined Rivers played a key role in the Wolves’ defense clamping down for the rest of the game. In the wake of McDaniels holding Curry to two points in the eight-time All-Star’s first stint, Rivers tapped in for the All-Defensive candidate, who battled through illness all night to bother Curry.
From there on in, Rivers guarded Curry for about 13 of the final 17 minutes of the game (including overtime). Steph scored six points on 11 shots (including 0/5 from deep) in that frame and registered a -16.
“The defense in the second half was incredible. We felt we were doing the things in the first half that we talked about, we were good, then we just got lazy and sloppy with some of the coverages at times,” Finch said, applauding his team for allowing just 43 points on 32.7% shooting (including 2/17 — 11.8% — on 3s) to a high powered offense after halftime.
“Both sides of the ball too. Getting to the paint. Making shots. Good defense. He’s got so much experience playing against those guys from being in Houston, being in Denver, being with the Clippers,” Finch said of Rivers. “He knows exactly what those guys are about and how to stay locked in on every moment of every possession.”
As Rivers addressed the media in the locker room, he was clutching Curry’s jersey. I asked Rivers why he takes so much pride in going to battle with No. 30.
“He’s one of the greatest ever. And he’s probably on the Mt. Rushmore at the point,” Rivers told Canis Hoopus. “I get a good night’s sleep the night before when I’m playing because of how much he screens, how much running your’e doing. His shape, incredible shape. You have to take pride.
“It’s a team effort, I got guys talking to me, but it’s almost like you’re not defending the team. Half the time I’m not looking what’s behind him. I’m staring at him because that’s how important he is to their offense. This is my guy and he was cool enough to give me his jersey.”
Beyond his work on Curry, Rivers made a huge 3 to open the Wolves’ scoring in the final frame, collected a pair of rebounds, blocked an Andrew Wiggins shot, and stole a Klay Thompson pass all during the fourth quarter. He’s a crucial piece to this team and proved exactly why in one of the biggest wins of the season.
The Wolves will host No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero and the feisty Orlando Magic on Friday night at Target Center — the fifth of a six-game homestand. Fans can catch the 7:10 PM CT tip on Bally Sports North.