With Anthony Edwards joining Karl-Anthony Towns in wearing street clothes we didn’t know what this team would look like on Saturday night. And why should we? Ant hadn’t missed a single game this season up until now. The Minnesota Timberwolves initially kept up with the Toronto Raptors, thanks to flashes of individual brilliance, but lacked understandably organization as a group and had no one who could carry them offensively down the stretch.
The first three quarters were competitive with the Wolves initially falling behind but rallying back to tie the game at 83 in the final minutes of the third. Early success could be credited to solid bench play, especially Naz Reid’s team-high 22 points including dropping a hammer on Scottie Barnes. Overall, the Wolves won the bench scoring matchup 47-28.
Jaden McDaniels followed up his career-high of 25 on Friday with 18 points and 6 boards including 4-6 from distance. Naz chipped in a trey of his own but that was it for the Wolves who shot an unimpressive 5-23 from distance. While Rudy Gobert didn’t necessarily play badly, he didn’t dominate either. With Ant and KAT out, it’s fair to expect more from your All-NBA Center.
On the Raptors side, Fred VanVleet and Pascal-Siakam led the way with 28 and 27 respectively. Their combined 55 points followed 88 points by Demar DeRozan and Zach Lavine in Chicago Friday night. Jakob Poelt who just returned to Toronto finished 7-8 after starting a perfect 6 for 6.
Though the Wolves turned over the ball on the first two possessions, the turnover battle was ultimately a wash with both teams generating 17 points off 15 turnovers.
It was a familiar script, hanging around (kind of) but ultimately falling apart at the end. Beyond that, it’s hard to glean much from this game because this didn’t look like Minnesota. Edwards was absent from the lineup for the first time this season and Josh Minott played 16 meaningful minutes.
Previously we’ve seen the Wolves pull out impressive wins against competitive teams yet fall apart against Victor Wembanyama hopefuls. And while this was a puzzling phenomenon to watch, at least it was consistent; it made sense. After the impressive California road trip, the Wolves appeared to have turned a corner. It looked like we might see the same late season rally we saw last year. However, after losing the last five of six, the No. 8 seed Wolves now face a math problem– there’s just not a lot of games left.
Edwards being listed as “questionable” rather than “out” is good news and infers he avoided a severe injury. He wore a boot into the arena, but was seen without it on the bench — a terrific sign. But with 10 games left, they could use him every single night. You also have to wonder when we see Towns back – if at all.
Tomorrow, the Timberwolves visit Madison Square Garden to face Tom Thibodeau’s New York Knicks squad that has won 14 of their last 18 games. After the Cali trip, Wolves fans were eyeing the teams above them in the standings with dreams of escaping the Play-In Tournament. But with 10 games left, the shorthanded Wolves must take a defensive stance and fend off the teams below them. The Play-In is not guaranteed!