It only took until Festivus, but the Minnesota Timberwolves finally beat a Western Conference team away from Target Center. After starting 0-11 in such games, the Wolves beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night.
More than that, this felt like the type of win the Wolves had been waiting for and desperately needed. Yes, the Thunder were on the second night of a back-to-back, but they’ve been one of the best teams in the West all season long. The way the Wolves got it accomplished was a big deal for a team that came into the night having lost six of seven.
Andrew Wiggins was awesome for Minnesota. It continues to be nights like Sunday that show what he can become, and what the Wolves hope he turns into.
Wiggins was terrific with 30 points, six rebounds, and five assists. His final bucket of the night was the one that won the game for the Wolves with less than five seconds remaining. The issue with Wiggins hasn’t been that he doesn’t do things like that, it’s that he doesn’t do things like that enough.
There are times that it may be lost how young the former No. 1 overall pick still is. Despite having logged 356 games, he still has yet to turn 24 years old. There’s still time to develop, but it’s also understandable to believe his potential now isn’t what many thought it would be when he left Kansas after one season.
This isn’t to say that he’ll ever be an all-star caliber player, but nights like the one against the Thunder give hope that one day he may be able to.
The Jerryd Bayless experience
Jerryd Bayless was a question mark when acquired by the Wolves as part of the trade that also brought Robert Covington and Dario Šarić in from Philadelphia for Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton.
At the time of the trade Bayless was out with a hyperextended knee causing him to miss the early portion of the season. Even if he had been healthy, it’s unlikely he would have been a mainstay in Philadelphia’s rotation.
Truthfully, he wasn’t expected to be part of the rotation in Minnesota, that was until both Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague were ruled out with left ankle injuries. Teague is expected to be out until closer to the new year, while Rose is listed as day-to-day.
Bayless isn’t one that’s going to have the same explosiveness as Rose or the same grasp of the offense as Teague, but he’s been serviceable in his game-and-a-half in the rotation. The most that can be asked of the 11-year veteran is to not look lost on the court, and to his credit, he hasn’t.
In the win against the Thunder only one member of the bench unit finished with a positive rating while on the floor, and that was Gorgui Dieng.
Dieng was energetic and a big reason why the Wolves were able to turn things back around in the third quarter after trailing at the half. In the 7:45 he played that period the Wolves outscored the Thunder by 16 points.
Dieng hasn’t always been great for the Wolves this year, but on Sunday night he was a big factor as to why the Wolves came away with the victory.
Okogie still learning
As it’s been said here at 1500ESPN.com for most of the season, the best way to describe Josh Okogie might just be that he “does things.” Not all of the things he does are good, as is the case with nearly every rookie in the history of basketball, but most of them are. Sunday night he had a bit of a rough task in terms of having to spend time guarding both Paul George and Russell Westbrook.
Those two are one of the more challenging duos in the NBA, and Okogie certainly struggled at times. That being said, he stepped up in the closing seconds to keep the victory in tact with solid defense of George before the buzzer sounded.