As our Jack Borman pointed out in his game preview, the worst the Minnesota Timberwolves could do heading into the final game of a critical four-game California road trip was a split. After the epic collapse against Klay Thompson and the second string Golden State Warriors one week ago, fans would certainly accept a 2-2 result. A 3-1 roadtrip felt more like a pipedream. Canis Hoopus spoke with Coach Chris Finch during the pre-game press conference and asked if he got the feeling that the Wolves were just ready to get back home, or if they felt particularly motivated to end their trip with a win. Finch shared that he didn’t get a sense they were planning on mailing in their effort.
Ant gave out a huge "YEAH!!! GAME DAY!!!" shout on his way to the court for pregame shooting.— Leo S (@Y0Leo) March 5, 2023
Ant then responded to a fan in the crowd with a "#1 Ant fan in Cali" by pointing to Jaden McDaniels on the bench and said "He's a future superstar right here."
Safe to say Ant is ready pic.twitter.com/UvLdTp9ADf
Anthony Edwards (27/4/8) opened the game for Minnesota by drilling a pull-up three pointer in transition. It was a sign of things to come. After a back-and-forth first few minutes, Ant would quickly seize control of the game. He would shut down a Harrison Barnes post-up attempt which immediately led to a beautiful drive and dish to an open Taurean Prince three-pointer. The next Wolves possession?
Edwards’ first quarter onslaught resulted in a game-high 10 points for the period. It was needed because Jaden McDaniels (19/3/4) and Rudy Gobert (13 & 14) each dealt with two early fouls. As with most Sacramento Kings games this season, it was clear tonight’s match was going to be an offensive sprint. Minnesota would maintain a slim lead after one quarter of play, though both teams shot well over 50% from the field. Who would blink first?
After an outstanding performance against the Lakers, the Wolves bench continued to thrive. The ball was humming as the lead grew larger and larger. They would withstand their continued issues converting on free throws (11/17 for the half) by heating up from perimeter (11/19 for the half). It was strange to see Minnesota dominating from perimeter against Sacramento, who won the points in the paint battle. A 74-point first half by the Wolves felt impressive, but giving up a 64-point half was still problematic.
movement to the bucket >>> pic.twitter.com/vtEqpy1jNf— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) March 5, 2023
Sacramento’s Kevin Huerter would exact revenge in the second half. Red Velvet would pour in 16 of his game-high 29 points came in the third quarter alone. It felt as though his effort would keep the Kings in the game, but always up for a challenge, Edwards would counter with 10 third quarter points of his own. Minnesota’s lead ballooned up to as much as 17 with 5:39 remaining in the quarter, but Coach Mike Brown would start to spam buttons on his controller. Domantas Sabonis (24 & 14) was a monster in the paint, but he would earn an extended stint on the bench due to foul trouble of his own. Brown would toss in noted Wolves killer, Trey Lyles (15 & 8), while testing out recently signed PJ Dozier, Kessler (Relax!) Edwards, and even Alex Len in an effort to get their team to play some semblance of defense. The result would be a 15-2 Sacramento run in less than three minutes, nearly resetting the game. A pair of timely Nickeil Alexander-Walker (16/3/5) triples saved Minnesota from being down by the end of the third quarter.
BACK-TO-BACK NAW TREYS. pic.twitter.com/VjbAJXQOHg— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) March 5, 2023
NAW opened up to Canis Hoopus after the game, sharing how every single one of his teammates have instilled confidence in him as he finds his role on the team. It was easy to see the emotion on his face as he spoke about his gratitude and love for the Wolves for taking a chance on him. His contributions on both ends of the court were boundless tonight, enjoying his best game in a Timberwolves uniform.
Holding on for dear life with a 105-102 lead heading into the final period, Finch must have felt déjà vu like no other. Another huge lead had melted away, but four straight Minnesota three-pointers, and a foul on an Alexander-Walker three-point attempt pushed them ahead by 12 points with 8:05 remaining. Had Minnesota finally learned their lesson on how to close a game in convincing fashion?
As Rudy Gobert once said: “Not so fast, pal ”
Once again, it took the Wolves opponent less than three minutes to dissolve another double-digit deficit. A 10-0 run had the raucous Golden 1 Center crowd buzzing as if it was 2002 and we were in the now demolished Arco Arena. Gobert and McDaniels teamed up for three dunks/put backs to try and silence the crowd, but it felt as though the starving Sacramento fans were going to will their team to yet another thrilling victory. De’Aaron Fox fed off that energy and was relentless attacking the paint, dragging the Kings within a single point with 2:09 remaining. You know who else loves the Sacramento energy though?
Just over a month ago, Ant had made an appearance on Austin Rivers’ podcast. As random as it sounds, he spoke about how Sacramento is his favorite opposing arena to play in. He was further asked about that in the post game interview.
“It’s even more fun now cause they (Sacramento) winning. The fans is... it was packed tonight. It’s even more fun. I love Sac.”
To their credit, Sacramento refused to go down without a fight, as they showed all evening. Fox missed a two-pointer, but Barnes ended up with the ball and a chance to take their first lead since the first quarter on a second-chance three-point attempt. Luckily for Minnesota, it fell short with just under a minute remaining. Ant did not need a timeout to do what he was going to do.
Canis Hoopus asked Finch about the late game heroics from Ant and whether or not things were intentionally designed to get him those shots. His response focused on how those situations came naturally out of the flow, but Ant did step up at the right time by making the right reads. That final bucket was just enough to swing the door shut while a final pair of Mike Conley Jr. swishes at the charity stripe locked the door. Final score: Minnesota 138, Sacramento 134.
Just like that, the Wolves are essentially tied for the 6th seed in the Western Conference standings and are finally returning home. Is it possible that this is just fool’s gold, as the fanbase has been repeatedly tricked into feelings of hopefulness this season? Absolutely. I wouldn’t blame you for not believing yet. However, it is hard not to buy into the positive vibes.
After the game, Ant, Gobert, Taurean Prince, Austin Rivers, and Karl-Anthony Towns all huddled around a cell phone, all keyed in on the UFC main event which was just about to start. Right before the first bell sounded, Gobert tweeted support for his countryman who was competing in the bout. The whole fight lasted less than three minutes as the French fighter swiftly lost as everyone exploded into laughter, harmlessly teasing Gobert to delete his tweet. Edwards had his arm around Rudy, advising him to stick around him for more “protection” in case of any future physical altercations. Shortly thereafter, Ant was asking for Conley Jr., speaking openly about his prowess at the video game Call of Duty. He shared with the media about how much more he’s gotten to know his point guard, who’s 14 years his senior.
Ant said he's spending his night playing Call of Duty with Mike Conley. According to him, Conley is nice with the sniper.— Leo S (@Y0Leo) March 5, 2023
Ant constantly says “SAC” (Solid As Concrete) and uses it on social media posts, often as a way to refer to people he adores. So maybe all his talk about “loving Sac” is just about how much Ant loves his teammates.
I know I love my SAC crew.
Great win and even greater times meeting/reconnecting with the ol' gang! Missed this pic.twitter.com/RxbhXjw0Xd— Leo S (@Y0Leo) March 5, 2023
Canis Hoopus Comment of the Night
The Wolves will stay in Sacramento overnight before heading back to Minnesota on Sunday, concluding the road trip which spanned over 10 days. They get Sunday and Monday off before the Philadelphia 76ers come to town on Tuesday 3/7 @ 6:30pm CT. They will be at the end of their own five-game road trip and at the tail-end of a back-to-back. Stay tuned for the injury report as it’s very possible that some Philly names pop up.