MINNEAPOLIS – Twenty quick thoughts from Minnesota’s 129-114 over San Antonio at Target Center on Wednesday night.
1. When Andrew Wiggins checked out of Wednesday night’s game against the Spurs for the last time, the Target Center fans rose to their feet in approval. This moment is one that’s been building over the past couple of weeks as Wiggins continues to display what most thought would be the norm for him once upon a time.
2. The growth of Wiggins continues onwards and upwards, it seems. Wednesday night was yet another step in the right direction towards making games like this one – and the six games prior to this one. It seemingly started when the Wolves were shorthanded thanks to the suspension of Karl-Anthony Towns that was followed by absences of Jeff Teague (illness)and Shabazz Napier (hamstring). The onus has been put on Wiggins, and it’s turned into the best basketball of his career.
3. He finished with 30 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals, a block, and was a game-high plus-24. For most of this short season now Wiggins has been the best player on the floor for the Wolves. That’s partly due to Towns struggling off of his suspension and searching for a rhythm, but that wasn’t the case on Wednesday.
4. Towns regained his form Wednesday night to the tune of 28 points and 11 rebounds, but Wiggins passed the eye-test as the better player, just as he’s done over and over again early on this year.
5. Not only has Wiggins done this with scoring, but he’s become a better passer this season, too. In the first five seasons of his career, Wiggins has totaled 11 games with 25+ points and 5+ assists. He’s now done it in five straight games.
6. “I feel like Jeff [Teague] was hurt and Shabazz [Napier] was hurt and I was the point guard for the time I was at,” Wiggins said. “While I was out there, I feel like I just kind of opened up and seen more and learned a little bit in that short period of time, so now when they’re back I can still do my thing and I know where the help is coming from, I know where the open man is going to be, so I feel like those couple days taught me a lot.”
7. That didn’t change with the return of Teague to the lineup. And it doesn’t look like there’s a reason that this can’t become normal.
8. “There’s a lot of growth there. It’s something we talk about a lot this summer and I mean, we want him to continue to play this way,” head coach Ryan Saunders said. “We understand the season ebbs and flows, so there will be ups, there will be downs. But he’s playing at a high level right now. But it’s because the little things are getting taken care of so the big things can be taken care of.”
9. Teague was back for the first time in over a week after missing the last four games with an illness. He came off the bench for the first time this season and gave the Wolves a big lift in the second half. The offense looked good with him running it, especially on the second unit. Wednesday was his best game of the season with 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting and six assists.
10. “I mean, just obviously when you have a point guard, a true point guard, it makes a big difference,” Towns said. “It makes us more organized, and obviously with him so fast and so gifted we’re able to push the pace a little more.”
11. Saunders declined to commit to bringing Teague off the bench more in the future, but it’s something that could make sense given just how well the Wolves have looked with Wiggins in control and how strong Teague was off the bench.
12. As for Towns, Wednesday night could serve as a springboard towards getting him back into a rhythm that he’s seemingly been out of since his suspension. His shot from deep still wasn’t as good as it will be – finishing 3-of-9 – but he did make 11-of-13 from the line, which is an area he’s struggled in so far.
13. If Wiggins keeps up his play, that only stands to benefit Towns even more moving forward, too.
14. “It makes it very easy. The game opens up for me, it gives me more space on the floor and it gives me more one-on-one opportunities and with that it’s just adding more tools to my toolbox and it gives me more passing lanes as well,” Towns said. “It’s not always about getting the assists, but even the hockey assist. Just making the right plays, it gets everyone open. I’m just so happy that we’re all making the right plays for each other. Andrew especially, I mean he’s doing a great job of not only scoring but getting downhill, but when he gets downhill he sees the defense collapsing and makes the right play.”
15. The Wolves did find themselves in a bit of an unusual spot for the franchise on Wednesday against San Antonio. For so many years Minnesota was the team that declined to take 3-pointers, instead focusing on pulling up somewhere between 15 and 19 feet for a long, contested 2-point jumper. Those days are gone from most teams in the NBA, with the Wolves being a new addition to that list.
16. Those days are not gone from the San Antonio Spurs, however. On Wednesday night the Wolves went 11-of-34 from deep. That alone is nothing special. On the other side of things, the Spurs only attempted 17 3-pointers, making just three of them.
17. For so long this had been reversed. The Wolves had always been the team that was behind the times with strategy on the offense end. Now, they’re flipping the script.
18. “It gives us a new look and I think opponents see our organization a little differently,” Towns said “They’ve been so used to us taking midranges and layups and whatever the case may be, that we never adjusted to what the game has changed to.”
19. “Not only have we now changed to what the modern NBA is, we are excelling at it tremendously well and being pioneers of excellence with it. Listen, it’s early in the season so we’re just seeing a product that’s just kind of just starting to shape. We have a lot more time to mold ourselves and mold our system to be even more productive and more lethal.”
20. The Wolves are back in action on Friday night at Target Center against Washington.