The Minnesota Timberwolves have yet to play impressive basketball through the first week and a half of the season. From guys not being on the same page to occasional lack of will and want-to, the team’s issues have been apparent. “They just outpunked us in every way possible,” Finch said after Monday’s loss. “Outran us, outcompeted us, out-physicaled us. It was ugly and unacceptable.”
Anthony Edwards, Jaylen Nowell, and the Wolves took a small step in the right direction on Wednesday night. However, the early-season holes came to light Monday night as the Wolves got mangled by the San Antonio Spurs on the first of back-to-back games against these teams.
Edwards Getting Back On Track
On Monday night, Karl-Anthony Towns delivered the Popeyes quote heard around the world.
“Maybe I could do a better job at teaching [Edwards] how to take care of his body,” Towns said. “You know diet and everything, so that’ll be on me… I know y’all think it’s funny up here when he talks about Popeyes and all that, you know, that doesn’t make me happy to hear.”
Finishing with nine points on 3 of 15 from the floor, Edwards looked like a shell of himself on the second night of a back-to-back. That has become a common occurrence for Ant throughout his career, and it’s a trend he needs to curtail as he heads into his third year.
“I came out with no energy at all,” Edwards said. “I tried to find some in the second quarter, couldn’t get any, and it just carried over to the next half. I gotta come out with better energy and help us.”
Minnesota’s lack of energy has become a prominent trend early this season. However, Edwards answered the bell Wednesday night. He finished with 34 points, nine assists on 57% from the floor, and 58% from three.
“I think we got to take a couple punches in the face to realize that we need to come out like that all the time,” said Edwards. “That punch that we took against San Antonio the first game kind of woke us up.”
The Wolves hung 39 points on San Antonio in the first frame primarily due to Edwards’ efforts. He opened the gates on 4 of 6 from three with 12 points. It was a dominant showing from the Wolves through the first 12 minutes, something that we have come to expect.
Aside from Monday’s blunder, the Wolves have not had any issues building big leads to open games. Maintaining those leads in the second half has been another story, though. It’s hard to pinpoint why they often come out of halftime in such disarray. However, when the Wolves bench comes to play, the third quarter epidemic seems to subside meaningfully.
The Nowell Effect
People who follow the Wolves closely have known about Nowell’s talent for a while. However, he’s never seemed to have a large or consistent role with the team.
“Very long, a lot of dark times, long dark hallway, sometimes you don’t see the light,” Nowell explained on his path to a consistent role with the team. “You stick with it and just keep playing, stay confident in yourself, and good things happen.”
Confidence has been key for Jaylen. Nowell went 2 of 13 from three in the previous two games before Wednesday. Even when his shot isn’t falling, Nowell still makes a tangible impact. He plays with great force and makes all the little plays, like making the right reads on the pick-and-roll and playing with high intensity.
“He’s done it a bunch since I’ve been here, but now he has a consistent platform to do and a much-needed role, and a big part of our early season story has been him,” Finch said. “Not just his tough shot-making, but he’s also made a lot of good plays with Rudy in pick-and-roll.”
Nowell finished with 23 points on 9 of 13 from the floor, and an insane posterizing dunk that got the Target Center crowd chanting “JAY-LEN, JAY-LEN, JAY-LEN.”
It’s not just Ant and Jaylen who have lifted the Wolves. Jaden McDaniels had an incredible impact on both sides of the ball.
Like the Wolves, McDaniels was coming off a very poor showing Monday night, putting up just four points on 1 of 4 from the floor. Big-Mac got back on track as he finished with 20 points, three blocks, and two steals on 8 of 9 from the floor and 4 of 5 from three Wednesday night.
With the Los Angeles Lakers coming into town Friday, normally, I’d say the Wolves found a groove at the perfect time. However, the Lakers are sitting at 0-4 and have really been out of sorts. It should be a competitive game, though. Patrick Beverley will be returning to Target Center for the first time.
The Lakers may not be in their best form right now. However, the Wolves need to build off their win on Wednesday to be ready for a difficult schedule coming up in November.