Midway through the second quarter Wednesday night in the their game against the Dallas Mavericks, the script looked pretty similar to that of what we all have seen plenty of times before from the Minnesota Timberwolves. A life-sucking, low energy, fatigue-generating performance at Target Center against a team that had no business looking like they were on the same playing field.
The Mavs went into Wednesday down Kyrie Irving, Luka Doncic, Dante Exum, and Dereck Lively. It was sure to be a heavy dose of Wolves killer Tim Hardaway Jr. (16.3 points per game in his career against the Wolves).
With six minutes left in the second quarter, writing on the wall was forming that the aforementioned could be what everyone could be in for. Dallas jumped out to a three point lead. Anthony Edwards and the starting five looked lackadaisical, shooting just 16 percent from downtown, and getting out-rebounded in a game that Dallas trotted out reserve, undersized center Richaun Holmes as its starter.
Unsuccessful challenge by Minnesota. This game is lifeless.— Andrew Carlson (@andrew_carlson2) February 1, 2024
Dallas shooting 21% from three, Wolves shooting 16%.
Depleted Mavs lead by 3
The starting 5 in particular needs to wake up and find a way to pull away or this could get embarrassing...
But the key words above are “could be”. A shot in the arm was needed offensively, and it came in the form of Karl-Anthony Towns.
The last time Towns took the floor at Target Center, he scored 62 points while his team lost to a tanking Charlotte Hornets squad, his defense being a major reason down the stretch for the result. On Wednesday, the script flipped completely.
Towns jumpstarted a sluggish team with back-to-back threes to close out the half and tally 18 points of his own by the time the buzzer went off.
Karl-Anthony Towns was really good on both sides of the floor on Wednesday, and was the one that jumpstarted a team that looked sluggish out of the gate.
“I thought our legs were heavy,” coach Chris Finch said afterward. “You have to play to your standard. I didn’t feel we did that in the first half...you can’t pick up sloppy habits when the game feels like it’s going to come easy.”
Towns couldn’t be included in that group. He was incredibly crisp on showing at the level of the screen on pick and rolls, which playing assignment sound in a timely fashion can sometimes be a bugaboo on the defensive end. He stopped Mavericks players frequently from having easy driving lanes to the basket.
Perhaps most important, he picked up just two fouls the entire game.
“The World Cup was really great for me to play against a lot of different guards and people,” Towns said. “Being able to give Finch that versatility offensively and defensively...I feel like i’m giving him that option by playing well on both sides.”
Both sides; we haven’t even talked about the other one yet.
His three point shot got the Wolves rolling at the end of the first half, and his ability to drive to the basket sustained success in the second. He finished the game with 29 points on 11-15 shooting (4-6 from three).
“I felt like I was getting a lot of driving lanes from the defense...[either] led to points for me or kickouts for my teammates,” Towns said. “I feel the flow of the game and adjust when I need to.”
“A Mike Conley Game”
Minnesota Mike mad his return on Wednesday after being in and out of the lineup over the last week and a half, and made his presence felt in true Mike Conley fashion.
He was the primary matchup for the second scorer on Dallas in Seth Curry, getting blitzed with screens on almost ever possession. His communication had been missed, and it was articulated by Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
“Mike said if we keep playing the right way, it will eventually turn in our favor,” Alexander-Walker said.
He was true to his word. Conley scored or assisted on eight points in two minutes in a final fourth quarter push that sealed things for the Wolves.
Mike Conley off-screen 3 pic.twitter.com/g3JuPhWlgF— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) February 1, 2024
He finished the game with 10 points, 3 assists, and finished with a team-high +25.
“It looked like a very typical Mike Conley game,” Finch said. “[He] hit big shots in the fourth. It was good to see him back up there.”
The Timberwolves will host Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic on Friday at 7 PM. Fans can watch the game on Bally Sports North.
The Magic are a recent victim of the Mavericks, giving up a 17-point lead to Dallas on Monday night. They kept a recent love triangle of games between teams going, beating the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday by 10, a recent Wolves road loss.
Minnesota will then wrap up a three-game homestand on Sunday when they host the Houston Rockets at 6 PM.