Last week’s optimism can be this week’s letdown. Such is the life of a Minnesota Timberwolves fan. Without a win over the New York Knicks that involved being down by 19 points at one point in the third quarter, this week would have been without a high-water mark. I suppose we could call the almost-win against the Brooklyn Nets a highlight, but that is grasping at straws.
The Knicks’ win was a good one, no doubt. They’re tough and play with a spirit that Tom Thibodeau struggled to inspire in the roster he had here in Minnesota. The Wolves managed to play some solid defense, push through Julius Randle doing a thick Dirk Nowitzki impression in the mid-range where he seems impossible to stop, almost throw the game twice in the last 10 seconds, and walk out with their heads held high.
Probably a little too high for a team that was 12-36 after the game, if we’re being honest.
Despite the joy it brings to watch an Anthony Edwards-driven win, especially in a game where he shot efficiently and made all the right plays, this game was once again marred by the theme of a comeback.
According to Inpredictable.com, the Wolves lead the league in Comeback Factor wins. That may sound like a good thing, but the team tops a list of the worst teams in the league that counts down to the best. Good teams don’t need to come back. Good teams stay in front and don’t look back.
While the Timberwolves have shown a feisty penchant for comebacks since the All-Star break, they’ve also shown a habit of getting down big. Sure, sometimes they come back and win as they did in the first Houston Rockets game last week, but most of the time they don’t. Often they come back to the brink and lose, like in Brooklyn, but even more often they get their doors blown off and never get back in the picture. Cast your mind back to the second Houston game for an image of that if you haven’t blocked it out entirely.
After the Knicks win, Edwards took to Zoom to tell the reporters and fans that this slow-out-of-the-gates-and-never-in-the-picture period of Wolves history was over.
Or, as he put it, ever so eloquently: “No more bullshittin’.”
It was refreshing to hear, especially in light of the game he had just played. Bring that 24 points off 16 shots with a few clutch steals any night, Rook. We’ll happily lap that up. It was a great game.
He also spoke about coming in game-ready and setting the tone early. The team that is second from the bottom of the Inpredictable.com win Comeback Factor, the Utah Jazz — owners of the NBA’s best record — are also second in the league in first-quarter defense, allowing a minimal 25.8 points in first quarters this season. Comparably, the Wolves are at the bottom of the West, ranked 28th, allowing 30.5 points.
Utah’s defensive tone allows them to get by, ranking 13th in first-quarter scoring. The Wolves rank 26th in first-quarter points, compounding their defensive woes with offensive struggles — digging holes.
It’s good to say the right stuff after a win, it really is, but the Wolves are the youngest team in the NBA. Even if Ant has had some spectacular fourth quarters lately, he is only 19. And as the Bally Boys Broadcast (trialing this moniker) so often point out, he is often wildly out of position defensively. Additionally, it feels unlikely that the return of D’Angelo Russell will improve the Wolves’ defensive rotations.
That win against the Knicks was followed by a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on the road. The Wolves never led by more than two points and wasted a lot of first-half work in the third, only for the Grizzles to finish them off early in the fourth with a series of runs that stretched the lead to 25 points.
To be fair to Ant, he followed up his words with another strong — and perhaps more importantly — decisive and efficient performance. There is a real happiness that seeps from his game. One can only imagine how ecstatic he will be if the Wolves can one day provide a platform for him to win regularly. He had a clean 22 points from 14 shots, including two of three from behind the arc on Friday in Memphis. In the absence of Ricky Rubio, who was out with back spasms, Ant led the team with six assists and added two blocks and a steal to a cool-headed game.
Aside from perhaps Naz Reid, who looked good off the bench, Karl-Anthony Towns was the only one along for the ride. KAT had a dominant 30 points and 16 boards plus a few nice defensive plays, but overall it was back to the same old Wolves. The excitement of Wednesday had dissipated; they were back to a team at the bottom of the West having what can only be called an awful season.
Still, we’ll watch the highlights of Edwards late into the night and take solace in Wednesday’s win against the barking man, Thibodeau.
It’s likely that the bullshittin’ is here to stay for a while at least, but every now and then, it’s gonna be fun like it was against the Knicks.