Timberwolves

Wolves Continue To Find Different Ways To Win Late

Photo Credit: Nick Wosika (USA TODAY Sports)

Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden was the definition of a roller coaster ride for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Through a couple of key contributors who made late baskets, the Wolves emerged on top over the New York Knicks as they kept finding ways to close out.

On Tuesday evening, Jaylen Nowell scored 14 points against the Knicks — 11 of them in the fourth quarter. A cold start didn’t deter him. He didn’t defer to his teammates in crunch time. Instead, the emerging guard trusted that what he had displayed all season for Minnesota would come around again. It paid off as he hit a couple of clutch shots for the Wolves in this win. Afterwards, he talked about his mindset entering the final frame.

“I just started going. It got to that point where I felt like I needed to make something happen and once that clicked in my mind it was on. I just started attacking to score and to get others involved as well when they started helping.”

Attack, he did and it helped catapult the Wolves to win. His head coach, Chris Finch, marveled afterward at the play from his reserve guard.

“He does a really good job of seeking the contact first. He gets in there, a little shoulder hit, gives him an opportunity to finish. That’s a learned skill, and he’s really good at it.”

Nowell wasn’t the only one to step up under the bright lights in the big moments.

Karl-Anthony Towns poured in 20 points of his own. No shot was bigger than his and-one with half a minute left. Towns drove left and went right to Julius Randle‘s body before launching from his off-foot. He kissed the ball off the glass to put the Wolves up one. His free throw put them up two. The Knicks had two opportunities late to both tie and then win the game after free throws were exchanged, but fell short in both. Towns’ efforts weren’t surprising giving his role on the team and his status in the league. It’s those crunch time moments that Minnesota will hope he uses as building blocks moving ahead to keep bolstering their confidence. Nowell and Towns were the heroes late on Tuesday night, but it’s been a variety show all year long in Minnesota’s close wins.

Anthony Edwards finished with a team-high 21 points, but he was pretty invisible in the fourth quarter through no fault of his own. It was the Nowell and Towns show. Edwards and the rest of the team were right to get out of their way on the offensive end. The Wolves have seen Edwards, D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and others take over the fourth quarter and help Minnesota leapfrog other teams. Seeing Nowell do it at The Mecca was a nice change of pace. It will matter for Minnesota as the season carries on.

Most teams have a closer, a guy they go to for the final shot — Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, to name a few. Towns and Edwards are Minnesota’s obvious options. But getting major contributions from others in late-game situations makes life that much more difficult for the opposition.

With the Golden State Warriors, you know the ball will work through Curry in the final moments of a close game. The same can be said for Lillard with the Portland Trail Blazers, Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee, and Embiid and Jokic. If they don’t take the final shot, they are almost always setting up a teammate and delivering the pass in those final minutes. The Wolves can lean on multiple different players.

Tuesday night was just another credit to the Timberwolves. They found another guy who can step up in big moments. Opponents will now have to prepare for Jaylen Nowell, knowing he’s able to deliver in the clutch.

Minnesota’s brutal stretch will continue, with four of their next six on the road at Atlanta, Portland, Golden State, and Phoenix. During that stretch, the two home games are against the Brooklyn Nets and Utah Jazz. It will be crucial for the Wolves to keep riding the wave of momentum they have after wins against the Warriors and Knicks and rely on a bevy of guys to help get the job done throughout the game and in the fourth quarter.

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