On Wednesday night at Capital One Arena in downtown Washington D.C., the Minnesota Timberwolves looked to snap their seven-game losing streak against the Washington Wizards and bounce back from their embarrassing 128-125 loss to the Charlotte Hornets.
Chris Finch seemed to understand the importance of shaking off what happened Monday night at Target Center as just not even a minute into the game as the Wolves coach called timeout after two defensive miscues led to two dunks for the Wizards.
After the timeout, the Wolves defense settled into the game only allowing 20 more points over the remaining 11 minutes of the quarter as the Wolves led by six after the first frame.
that's too easy for Æ. pic.twitter.com/Wc2OvVLU7v— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) January 25, 2024
In the second quarter, the Wolves continued to get good looks but struggled to knock them down. In the first half, the Timberwolves shot a putrid 35.8% from the field, their second-worst shooting first 24 minutes this season. Minnesota missed 18 of their 33 shots from the paint.
The Wolves also struggled to hit 3-point shots in the first half, going 3-13 including 0-4 from Karl-Anthony Towns, who made his first eight attempts from beyond the arc in his 62-point showing last game.
What kept the Timberwolves in the game in the first half was something they’ve struggled with this year, turnovers. Minnesota only turned the ball over three times, compared to 10 for the Wizards, which led to an 18-2 advantage in points off turnovers for the Wolves.
Washington took a two-point lead into halftime, but as the resilient group has done so often this season, the Timberwolves dominated the third quarter, outscoring the Wizards 33-19.
Anthony Edwards picked up his fourth foul halfway through the quarter, so it was Towns who led the Wolves scoring 15 points in the quarter on 6/8 shooting inside the arc while not turning it over. The big man used his size very effectively to attack a weak interior defense, and did it within the flow of the offense.
15 POINTS IN Q3 FOR KAT— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) January 25, 2024
With the Timberwolves carrying a 12-point lead into the final quarter and Mike Conley out with an illness, the question for the Wolves would be if they could close the game out without their clutch-time leader.
For at least one night, Minnesota were able to keep their offense going late in the game without the 36-year-old veteran, as they did not allow the lead to get below seven points and secured the victory, 118-107.
Anthony Edwards led the way with 38 points and five assists. He was able to get to the line seemingly at will as he got to the line 14 times, making 13 of them. It was Edwards’ 11th game this season getting to the stripe at least 10 times — and his seventh since Christmas.
The Wolves’ twin towers also played well with Rudy Gobert putting up 19 points and grabbing 16 rebounds, including seven offensive rebounds. Gobert was key in Minnesota scoring 19 second chance points off of 15 total offensive boards. Towns scored 27, had a team-high +/- of 26, and had this fantastic lob to Rudy late in the game.
Rudy Gobert lob dunk, assisted by Karl-Anthony Towns as a PnR ball-handler pic.twitter.com/5PFTY3Wtlo— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) January 25, 2024
With the win over the Wizards tonight, the Wolves snap their seven-game losing streak against Washington; the last win came on November 2, 2019.
(Editor’s Note: I wouldn’t have been able to handle another Bradley Beal 40-ball. Thank God for that trade.)
The leading scorers that night for the Wolves were Andrew Wiggins and Robert Covington as Towns was suspended from an altercation with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and the Philadelphia 76ers the game prior.
What is most astounding about the losing streak against the Wizards is that Washington has been one of the worst teams in the NBA over that span. Since the last time the Wizards have lost to the Wolves, Washington has had a 135-211 record. That is a 39% win percentage and a 32-win pace in an 82-game season.
Losing to bad teams happens, but to lose seven straight to a team that seems to struggle to beat any other team is an outstanding streak. The Timberwolves will look to start a winning streak against the Wizards when they come to Target Center on April 9.
A key reason the Wolves were able to win tonight was because they were able to limit their turnovers. As a team, Minnesota finished the night with only seven turnovers, their second-fewest amount in a game this season behind the blowout loss to the Phoenix Suns in November.
This was especially valuable in the first, when the Wolves were struggling to make shots from all areas of the floor. Not turning the ball over allowed them to stay in the game through their rough shooting stretch and only trail by two at halftime.
They continued to limit turnovers in the second half, so when shots started to fall, they were able to take a lead and finish the game out.
Turnovers have been a key statistic for the Wolves as they have been bottom-five in that statistic all year. It has cost them games and is the main area offensively they will need to shore up if they want to win a playoff series or two.
A night like tonight is a good data point to show what this Wolves team can do if they can limit turnovers. A win against the 8-35 Washington Wizards is far from impressive, but winning games while shots aren’t falling is something championship-caliber teams need to be able to do.’
Winning Without Mike Conley
The Wolves have struggled to win games all year when either Conley is not available for the game or is having an off-night on the court. Their late-game offense especially gets stuck in the mud when Minnesota Mike is unable to captain the ship.
Tonight, Minnesota was able to take a double-digit lead, hold it until the end with little to no worry, and keep the offensive effective late in the game all with Mike Conley out due to an illness.
Mike Conley should not expect to play every single game at the age of 36, especially for a team that has aspirations of playing in late April and June. The Wolves will need to find Conley rest days or nights like tonight when he is on the injury report. The Wolves will need to find ways to win on those nights and they did that tonight.
Again, it does come against a bad Wizards team, but they have to start somewhere. They were able to get a relatively easy win, with solid crunch offense and very few immature stretches of play.
Hopefully, this trend can continue for the Wolves against a more competitive opponents moving forward, not just for this year, but for years to come when Conley is no longer the floor general in Minnesota.
The Wolves will hop on a plane tonight to take on Mikal Bridges and the Brooklyn Nets tomorrow at Barclays Center. The game will begin at 6:30 PM CT on Bally Sports North Extra.