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Road Trip Takeaways: KAT is great, Wiggins is complicated, and the bench helped a bunch

The Minnesota Timberwolves moved to 1-0 on the very young season with a 127-126 thrilling overtime victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.

Here are four takeaways from the win:

Karl-Anthony Towns is damn good at basketball. Period.

That’s a line that’s going to be written quite a bit in some form or another rather frequently everywhere words about the Minnesota Timberwolves are written. It’s deserved and there’s no debating it. Towns was lights out against Brooklyn finishing with 36 points and 13 rebounds. There were moments during the game when the Wolves badly needed to stop the bleeding and turned to Towns. He came through for them time and time again.

After Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving buried a cold-blooded 3-pointer on the left wing to give the Nets a 115-112 lead with 1:16 left in regulation, Towns immediately responded with a three of his own to tie the game back up. He finished with a career-high seven 3-pointers in the win.

Aside from the gaudy offensive numbers, Towns has shown significant improvement on the defensive end as well. The Wolves were able to keep the Nets to 47.6% inside the restricted area on Wednesday. Towns was a big reason as to why the Wolves were able to be so stout in the interior, but Noah Vonleh deserves credit here, as well. Brooklyn attempted getting the ball to DeAndre Jordan on a lob pass numerous times, but each try was unsuccessful thanks to those two.

This is the player that Towns is becoming. Each night he might not be quite this effective, but this is the type of star he can be. Offensively, he might be the best big man in the NBA, and if he’s not that he’s certainly the best big man in terms of shooting from the outside.

Expect to see more nights like this from Towns. He’s on a mission to prove just how good he is, and Wednesday night was a good start.

Andrew Wiggins is, well, it’s complicated

Wiggins didn’t have his best night on Wednesday. Wiggins did have a strong – for the most part – close to the game against the Nets. Those things an both be true and co-exist.

Wiggins posted an ugly stat line of 21 points on 27 (!!) shots, eight rebounds (actually good), no assists, no steals, no blocks, one turnover, and a minus-26. The midrange jumper still existed to an extent as Wiggins took four non-paint 2-pointers.

To his credit, he did attack the rim 11 times, scoring on eight of those attempts. That might be the part that’s most frustrating to some. Not because he didn’t finish all 11 attempts, but that only 11 of his 26 attempts came inside the restricted area, and he was 2-of-15 on all other shots.

*note* The above shot chart is missing the 3-pointer that Wiggins attempted at the end of regulation.

The rebounding number is encouraging, no doubt. Last season after the coaching change took place, Wiggins did see an uptick in his production in that category which clearly carried over to Wednesday. Whether or not that keeps up will be something to watch this season. The discouraging thing here is that he posted zeros in every other meaningful statistical category.

The final stretch of the game was something that Wiggins should look to build upon. In the fourth quarter and overtime Wiggins was 4-of-7 from the field, including a 3-of-3 mark at the rim. This game, in summation, is exactly why Wiggins can be so frustrating.

Bench Bunch

The reason why the Wolves won this game – other than Towns – was the play of the bench, particularly Josh Okogie.

Every player on the Wolves’ bench had a positive net rating, led by Okogie with a +22 in just 14 minutes on the floor. Napier was the next highest with a +17 in 21 minutes as the backup lead guard.

Okogie has his limitations offensively. Opposing teams may beg him to shoot and he has the problem of playing out of control at times as well, but too many good things happen when he’s on the floor for the Wolves. His defensive intensity is infectious for a team that at times might need it. While the case that his offense drags the team down when he’s on the floor can be made, it’s hard to ignore what he brings to the table overall.

Okogie’s value to this team doesn’t need to be shown any further than the game’s final possession when he was put into the game to guard Irving. That’s a big moment for anyone, but Okogie did a fine job helping to secure the win.

About Irving…

It’s already been said how masterful Towns was tonight for the Wolves, and he earned what matters most, the win.

But, goodness gracious Kyrie Irving was spectacular for Brooklyn. Irving set the NBA record for most points scored in a team debut with 50 points on 17-of-33 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and seven assists. He hit some big shots down the stretch of regulation and almost buried an absolutely asinine buzzer beater in overtime. He’s a special talent without question, and with due respect to Towns, this was the most bonkers stat line of the night. The fact that Irving finished with a +18 plus-minus does further illustrate how much better the reserves for the Wolves were as compared to Brooklyn’s.

The Wolves are back in action on Friday night in Charlotte against the Hornets. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. CT.


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