Timberwolves

Can Minnesota's Big 3 Earn Respect Around the League?

Photo Credit: Nick Wosika (USA TODAY Sports)

The Minnesota Timberwolves season opener against the Houston Rockets took place in front of a less-than-capacity Target Center, but the verve of the crowd was more than enough to make up for the empty upper deck seats.

The intro video can only be described as epic. There were images of Timberwolves and actual wolves intertwined to amp the crowd up for the new season. There was fire shot from the top of the hoops, the heat from the flames a perfect precursor to a game in which the Wolves came out with ferocity from the opening tip.

Before the game, Rockets head coach Stephen Silas was asked about the “one-two punch” of Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards but he made sure to mention that D’Angelo Russell was a part of a trio that is hard to defend.

“Yeah, they’re tough,” he said. “I mean, they have the one-two-three punch with Russell as well. They put a lot of pressure on your defense.” He went on to comment on Towns’ versatility, Edwards’ ability to get to the rim, and Russell’s ability to get hot in a hurry.

This is in fact the hope, no, the prerogative of this Timberwolves season. This “Big 3” has got to earn the respect of teams around the league, not just the Rockets — whose young core will be subject to talent and skill beyond their own on a near-nightly basis.

Russell came out strong to begin the game, attacking the rim early drawing two fouls, and successfully converting a layup. After that he struggled to find his footing in the first half, finishing 2-for-7.

Towns and Edwards were there to pick up the slack scoring a combined 45 points in the first as the Wolves burst to a 33-point lead at halftime. When the Wolves’ offense looked flat to start in the second half, DLo was there to hit two big 3-pointers midway through the third quarter, forcing the Rockets to call timeout. The onslaught continued as he hit two more and added a free throw in the quarter. He scored 13 in the third, helping the Wolves maintain their massive lead.

This is the importance of the three of them together like coach Silas mentioned before the game. That’s the beauty of the game. There is a give and take in the NBA that can be seen in every contest. The best teams play with a cohesion and flow that, if you squint, looks like divine choreography. Part of that cohesion comes from chemistry and “good vibes” — something the Wolves certainly don’t seem to be lacking this season.

We’ve seen the “vibes” throughout the summer. A trip to Miami, a cute pajama pic that reminds me of my family Christmases, and Ant Jr. taking over social media. It was good to see them up close and personal today. I saw DLo making sure he high-fived every single person on the bench when he checked out. Malik Beasley made a great defensive play and the entire bench jumped up to help him off the ground. Towns was frolicking across the baseline when Leandro Bolmaro narrowly missed a tough layup. There is some real joy flowing forth from this team.

The other piece of this cohesion comes from clear and defined roles and responsibilities. Thus we come back to this idea of the Wolves and the importance of their star power. Because at the end of the day the NBA is all about its stars. On Wednesday night, Towns, Russell and Edwards looked like real-life NBA stars.

These are the Houston Rockets, though.

The expectation is that the team comes out and easily beats an inexperienced team like this. Now let’s see if the Wolves can keep it up against tougher competition.

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