In a game that looked like it had a giftwrapped Warriors win written all over it, a gritty final stretch reversed the course, and it came at the perfect time.
For the first time since 2016 and a Shabazz Muhammad 30-piece against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors, the Minnesota Timberwolves walked off the home court of the defending champs as winners.
What started out as a track meet ended as a dog fight. Both teams traded seismic errors in the second half that felt as though they were playing hot potato with the game. The Wolves shot 56% from the free throw line, leaving 11 crucial points there. Jaden McDaniels found himself in foul trouble, while Minnesota took multiple costly technical and flagrant fouls.
But this one was a little different. For what seemed to be the first time this season, the Wolves overcame self-inflicted bullets in their feet and made clutch plays when it mattered; including a massive fifth steal by Kyle Anderson that parlayed into a Karl-Anthony Towns dagger.
Kyle Anderson swipes it and Karl-Anthony Towns drains the CLUTCH triple with 9.9 on the clock!
Final seconds on NBA TV!
➡️ https://t.co/0rrSPxOHD0 pic.twitter.com/4ZJGsRVm0s
— NBA (@NBA) March 27, 2023
Karl-Anthony Towns had eight career go-ahead FGs or FTs in the final minute of the 4Q prior to returning from injury this week, per @EliasSports (h/t @Twolves_PR).
He’s had one of each in his first two games back.
The Wolves are now 10-0 in those games.
Welcome back, KAT pic.twitter.com/orxBlaAUWe
— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) March 27, 2023
It’s a massive continuation of momentum for a team that so desperately needs it in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. The win tonight pulled Minnesota into the No. 7 spot and within half a game of the No. 6 seed Golden State. It was also additional proof that with the right mix of toughness, shotmaking, and defense, the twin towers experiment can work against small ball’s best.
Slow-Mo(ney), No Problems
Timberwolves Head Coach Chris Finch could not have been more direct, nor have said it any better.
“In many ways he’s our most important player, and he has been all season.”
Anderson came off the bench and was borderline miraculous. He finished the game with 12 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, and five steals. Only Kevin Garnett and Ricky Rubio have registered those numbers, or better, in the history of the franchise.
Kyle Anderson tonight:
Joins Ricky Rubio and Kevin Garnett as the only Wolves to reach those numbers in a game. pic.twitter.com/CrJHtbbK15
— StatMuse (@statmuse) March 27, 2023
Kyle Anderson tallied 4 steals over the game’s final 12:30 tonight
Those 4 steals turned into 11 Wolves’ points — 44% of the team’s offense in that span. (Not pictured: TP drawing another foul for 2 FTs)
He’s great at pushing his defense into the team’s offense
Winning player pic.twitter.com/lVjF9lVRfc
— Jace frederick (@JaceFrederick) March 27, 2023
It’s not much of a discussion anymore. He’s the best free agent signing in franchise history, and if it weren’t for his sure-handedness in the 52-game spell that Towns was sidelined, it’s fair to say this team would be in a pretty dark spot upon KAT’s return. Now, however, he presents a versatile two-way option off the bench that can quickly arrange the strewn out puzzle pieces of the starting five if needed.
KYLE ANDERSON BEATS THE SHOT CLOCK pic.twitter.com/aE4jtxHAIe
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 27, 2023
“He’s been doing this for us all season,” Finch added.
Twin Towers Hold Steady
The fear of many and plenty talked about potential pain point of the Wolves would be how a roster with three centers in rotation guard teams like the Warriors and others that prefer playing small.
Besides a couple trials against the Sacramento Kings that went both poorly and excellent, tonight provided a little more context. I really liked the way the Wolves hedged screens and forced the ball out of Stephen Curry’s hands. At the beginning of the game, it seemed like it would be a long one. Both Steph and Klay Thompson were getting near wide open looks off of Draymond Green’s dribble handoffs, and the game started to become a track meet, which could not be the recipe for success on the end of the Wolves.
The chemistry between Steph and Draymond is unmatched pic.twitter.com/PE7Azwv8F7
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) March 27, 2023
But it’s not how it ended up. With under five minutes left in the third, the Warriors were shooting under 40% from the field. Minnesota out-rebounded Golden State by 12 and doubled them up on second chance points (12-to-6 advantage).
They also had 34 points in the paint to the Warriors’ 28.
“Locking into the game plan for the bigs was important,” Finch said. “I thought we did a pretty good job at points throughout the game of throwing it inside.”
Especially when they needed to slow things down and find a way to get points. Gobert got to the line 12 times; he finished the game with another double-double, reeling in 18 boards to go with his 10 points. Though he only made one field goal, he was an active cutter and aggressive in getting deep seals when he had a mismatch switched onto him.
“[Rudy] told us to expect more from him coming out of the All-Star break,” Finch explained. “Last time we played here, they really beat us up on the offensive glass. [He] was huge…the team around him is starting to find a way to value him offensively.”
Mike Conley, anyone?
Reid Keeps Rolling
Minnesota had one player score more than 20 points Sunday: Naz Reid.
It’s Reid’s second straight game eclipsing 20, and funny enough, the second straight game he’s shared the court with Gobert and Towns.
Naz is shaping up to be my favorite story of the year. Almost everyone (myself included) tabbed him as an odd one out in a crowded front-court, and the likeliest on the roster to be out at the deadline. His fit at the beginning of the season alongside Gobert and Towns was clunky to both the eye and the numbers. When he’s on, it’s incredible. When he’s off, he’s borderline unplayable.
But the most recent development in an insufficient sample size of two games may be the most intriguing thing to watch from here on out: how does he capitalize on the attention taken off of him when sharing the floor with the other two centers in the rotation?
The answer to that determines just how many zeroes are added to his paycheck this offseason.
- Chris Finch picked up his 100th win as an NBA head coach, and coach of the Wolves. He sits at second all-time in franchise history. Ironically, he passed Tom Thibodeau with the Wolves’ Monday win over the New York Knicks.
- Conley had another perfect start to the game on Sunday, starting 4 for 5 from three point range. He would not score a bucket for the rest of the game.
- Anthony Edwards struggled in his return. He made just five field goals and had one shoe change. Finch mentioned after the game he was not 100% and did noticeably did not have his usual explosiveness.
- The Wolves did themselves no favors with the officials this evening. They added a technical foul and two flagrants to their already-steep totals.
The California road trip continues with a bus ride to Sacramento for a back-to-back against the Kings. The Beam Team is coming off of an eight-point win against the Utah Jazz and has a day of rest heading into Monday night’s showdown, which is important considering star point guard De’Aaron Fox injured his hamstring in a win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday and did not play Saturday vs Utah.
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