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Magic 108, Wolves 106: Back to the Fourth Quarter Blues

Rudy Gobert led the Timberwolves with 22 points and 16 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to overcome off nights for both Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Orlando Magic v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

The Minnesota Timberwolves came into the game on Friday night with two 2024 All-Stars already known in Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns, but they had their sights set on adding more. A win against fellow All-Star Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic would secure a trip to Indianapolis for Wolves Head Coach Chris Finch and his staff as the coaches of the NBA Western Conference All-Stars.

With that in mind, the Timberwolves certainly brought it early. Minnesota came out in a 2-3 zone against an Orlando squad that is dead last in 3-point percentage (34.4%) and 3-pointers made per game (10.8), and forced a 3/11 start from the floor, including 1/5 from beyond the arc. Minnesota switched out of it for a few possessions, with Rudy Gobert guarding Markelle Fultz — following a theme of Gobert playing off of non-shooters in recent games — and Jaden McDaniels playing excellent isolation defense on Banchero, a fellow Seattle native. The Wolves were excellent at finishing possessions with rebounds, too, allowing just one offensive rebound in the quarter.

Those two got after it on the other end, scoring 15 of the team’s first 17 points, quickly building a lead that reached 10 early on. Gobert was particularly impressive, scoring eight points off two athletic dunks and four free throws. He finished the opening quarter with 11 points, five rebounds and two assists, sending a clear message about how he felt being left off the All-Star reserves on Thursday night.

Mike Conley set up both Gobert dunks, part of what was a dominant first stint for the beloved veteran without even taking a shot. He dropped five dimes, grabbed two boards and recorded a steal, too.

Edwards didn’t take a shot until the 5:24 mark of the first quarter, when he got an athletic finish to go for an and-1. The 2020 No. 1 overall kept his foot on the pedal, scoring three more times in the next handful of possessions to give him eight for the quarter.

While the Magic put some points on the board attacking the interior of the Wolves defense in the closing couple minutes of the quarter, a beautiful side-step 3 from Nickeil Alexander-Walker made it 38-26 after one quarter. Excellent ball and player movement led to 10 first quarter assists for the Wolves, who shot 74% for the quarter and scored 20 points in the paint.

Jordan McLaughlin started the second quarter in typical Jordan McLaughlin fashion: by wasting no time making an impact. The fan favorite intercepted a pass and then hit Kyle Anderson for a corner 3, before moments later stealing another pass — only this time with Anderson assisting a J-Mac triple. McLaughlin added another spot-up 3 in the corner to give the Wolves offense a shot in the arm.

The Wolves during the first media timeout played a video recognizing Gobert’s efforts in the first half of the season, clearly a nod to his All-Star snub on Thursday night. He got a massive ovation from the crowd, and responded with inspired play on both ends of the floor. He added two scores and connected on a pair of free throws while disrupting several shots on the interior and grabbing a pair of boards.

Gobert’s energy was very much needed, especially after Edwards went down on an awkward drive to the rim and hopped straight to the locker room holding his right knee. It looked like Edwards knocked knees with a defender, but actually turned his right ankle. After six-plus minutes of worry, Edwards would start the second half.

Minnesota continued their strong ball movement and quick decision-making, which got everyone involved and helped sustain a 12-point lead late in the frame, despite Franz Wagner and Banchero scoring 17 of the Magic’s 28 second quarter points. But the Magic responded with 9-2 run to close the half and get it to five, 59-54.

Towns opened the third quarter with a needed triple after going 0/4 from beyond the arc in the first half, before adding another score to give him five for the half in the opening minute after scoring just six all first half. But the Wolves quickly surrendered the eight-point lead behind energy making plays from St. Paul native Jalen Suggs, who blew up a dribble hand-off action for a steal and then drained back-to-back triples to tie the game at 64.

Seemingly every time the Wolves made a big energy play, whether it be a block, made 3, great rim attack, or getting a 50/50 ball, the Magic had a response. Suggs was at the middle of all of it, completely flipping the game with his energy.

But when Suggs started to get tired late in the third, the Timberwolves started to build more of a lead, and it began with a monster block from Gobert on a Wendell Carter Jr. dunk attempt. Minnesota went on a 9-2 run to retake a six-point lead, with Edwards scoring five of Wolves’ points, while the Wolves’ defense did a tremendous job forcing Suggs and Banchero into difficult mid-range shots on the other end of the floor. The effort from Gobert, NAW and Co. got the crowd back into the game and created a great environment heading into the fourth quarter with the Timberwolves leading 88-80. Towns and Edwards combined for 15 of Minnesota’s 29 points in the frame.

That defensive effort continued to start the final quarter — at least in the half-court. Orlando started just 1/4 from the floor, but remained in striking distance due to a pair of quick scores in transition from Gary Harris and Wagner as a result of Wolves misses at the rim, prompting a Finch timeout with the lead dwindling to two.

It remained a back-and-forth game for most of the period because the Wolves couldn’t defend without fouling and Edwards dribbled the air out of the basketball in a half-court offense that had next to no structure or movement. Five straight possessions ended in either an Edwards shot or turnover with only one trip netting a profit.

“Yeah, I mean, definitely our shot selection was poor for the most part, just overall execution was poor. We struggled to get into our sets. They did a good job with their physicality, with their ball pressure,” Finch said postgame. “And we didn’t really do a good job of battling back on that front. That led to transition buckets and kind of crummy defense after that.”

The Timberwolves offense is at its best when the ball is moving and most baskets are assisted. Well, Minnesota didn’t record an assist in the first eight minutes of the quarter as a result of the stagnation.

Orlando Magic v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Minnesota quickly drew a pair of fouls once Conley re-entered with 4:26 to play. As a result, Orlando Head Coach Jamahl Mosley opted to play Hack-a-Rudy, and Gobert split the pair.

On the other end, Finch went to a 3-2 zone to try and keep the Magic out of the paint on the drive, which they used to get to the free throw line 11 times — making all 11 — in the first nine minutes of the quarter after taking just nine free throws in the first three quarters combined. It disrupted the flow for a couple possessions, but the Magic still found a way to continue getting to the stripe with a jumbo lineup that bullied the Wolves’ perimeter defense.

The Timberwolves’ offense greatly improved with Conley at the controls in the clutch, but Minnesota missed too many shots late — even the cleanly generated ones — and ultimately fell 108-106, which Banchero sealing it with a pair of free throws to go up four with 9.3 seconds left.

Gobert led the way for the Wolves with a team-high-tying 22 points (including 10/11 on free throws) and 16 rebounds to go along with a pair of assists and two blocks, while Banchero paced the Magic with 23 points and six assists. Ironically it was Gobert — the All-Star snub — who did everything and more for the Wolves, while the two All-Star selections let him down in another loss that leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouths.

Edwards scored 23 and Towns poured in just 19, while the pair only grabbed a combined four rebounds and dished six assists in what was a disappointing performance coming off their All-Star announcements on Thursday.

This story will be updated throughout the night after the conclusion of player and coach media availability.


Key Takeaways

Orlando Magic v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

A Fourth Quarter Backslide

The Timberwolves deserved to lose this game, full stop. They thought it was sweet after one great quarter and followed it up by losing in almost every key category:

  • Turnovers (17-15)
  • Points in the paint (54-48)
  • Rebounds (42-38)
  • Offensive rebounds and second chance scoring (10-6 and 18-10)
  • Fast break points (17-7)
  • Free throw attempts (26-20)

Yet, they still had a chance to win the game. For as good as Edwards has been all season, Minnesota’s north star led the group astray. Most fourth quarter possessions didn’t involve a pass until 15 or 14 seconds left on the shot clock, with Ant’s teammates watching him pound the air out of the ball before getting up a contested shot before the horn could sound.

Edwards re-entered the game with 9:15 left in the game, sooner than normal given the Wolves on the brink of giving away the lead. He made a tough mid-range jump shot at the 8:25 mark, before going full hero mode. The next four possessions:

  • Ant missed 3
  • Ant turnover
  • Ant missed mid-range 2
  • Ant missed layup (and technical after the miss)

Throw in a KAT turnover and a missed McDaniels triple, and you have a scoreless stretch of 3:21 (8:25 to 5:04) during which the Magic flipped a two-point deficit into a five-point lead. Yes, the Wolves couldn’t defend without fouling on the other end of the floor (15/17 FTs in 4Q for the Magic), but the offense set them behind the 8 ball. Minnesota shot 5/20 (25%) in the quarter with more turnovers (3) than assists (2).

How did Finch try to combat that?

“We called some movement sets. I just thought there was a hesitation [from Edwards] to go downhill. I thought he had a guy in space several times in the fourth quarter and he just held. He should have had opportunities to go off the couch and in space, but called over a pick-and-roll and that kind of jammed us up,” Finch explained. “So yeah, I thought [there was] just like hesitancy over and over and over.”

“Yeah, there’s just again, too much holding, not coming off the action to turn the corner to put pressure on the defense, which commits the defense to make the right play. We come off the action looking for the all too often isos.”

Edwards was asked about why the ball movement continues to go away in the fourth.

“I don’t know, that’s a good question. That’s a great question. I honestly can’t tell you what happened. I don’t know,” the two-time All-Star said. “Myself, I got to stop holding the ball, taking bad shots I guess. Got to be better.”

Considering how often that fourth quarter has played out this season, fans surely hope he would have a better answer by now. But neither he nor the Wolves have found one, and they’ll continue to give away games they should win until they solve the equation.

Orlando Magic v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

A (Mostly) Good Bench Performance

The Wolves’ reserves put together another good night on Friday, scoring 29 of the team’s 106 points on 11/21 shooting, and made five of Minnesota’s 12 3-pointers.

Even better, each of the four players to play off the bench — Naz Reid (9), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (7), Kyle Anderson (7) and Jordan McLaughlin (6) — scored at least six points, rather than Reid scoring half or more than half the group’s points.

McLaughlin curiously only played five minutes and did not play in the second half after an excellent first half stint. The pace and ball movement engine was on the floor to start the fourth quarter in Oklahoma City on Monday and vs. Dallas on Wednesday — two games in which the opening lineups of the frame were successful — but his number was not called on Friday.

Finch took responsibility for that postgame.

“I should’ve played J-Mac in the second half, that’s on me. He’s always a catalyst for ball movement. But we just stopped completely.”

If there was ever a night on which the Wolves could’ve closed with a group other than the standard closing unit, Friday would’ve been it. Towns and Edwards were completely out of sorts on both ends of the floor, Conley and McDaniels couldn’t buy a shot, and no one was able to get the ball to Gobert, who was exceptional when he touched the ball.

But Finch opted to go with the regular unit and they couldn’t deliver down the stretch. Nonetheless, it was a good step forward for a bench group that has played much better of late, and could have reinforcements coming next week ahead of the NBA Trade Deadline on Thursday at 2 PM CT.

Orlando Magic v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

A Rare Ice Cold Shooting Night

Something we haven’t lamented over much this season is poor 3-point shooting. The Wolves are second in the NBA in 3-point percentage (39.0%) this season, but connected on just 12 of their 38 looks tonight (31.6%) — their fifth-worst shooting performance of the 2023-24 campaign. They made more triples (12-9), but were outshot percentage-wise by the Magic (36.0%).

In your not sponsored, totally-not-cherry-picked stat of the night, Minnesota is now 3-5 when they shoot worse than 32.4% from beyond the arc.

Towns, who teased on Friday that he might compete in the 3-Point Contest during All-Star Weekend, shot 2/7, while McDaniels shot 2/6, Edwards 2/8, NAW 1/5 and Conley a very uncharacteristic 1/6.

The Wolves did do a good job of making their free throws (18/20 for 90%) and their 2-point shots (26/44 for 59.1%), but their 3-point shooting let them down.


Up Next

The Wolves will close out their three-game road trip on Sunday against the Houston Rockets. Fans can watch the game at 6 PM CT on Bally Sports North.

After that, Minnesota will embark on a five-game road trip to take them into the All-Star Break, broken up with a three-day break in between a game in Milwaukee on Thursday and one in Los Angeles against the Clippers a week from Monday.


Highlights