MINNEAPOLIS – Thirty-one last shots for the 31 free throws attempted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in their 120-113 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night at the Target Center.
1. In the long-awaited return to the Target Center the Wolves finally got back in the win column, snapping a five-game losing streak that took place on the west coast. The days of Jimmy Butler are over, but that doesn’t mean everything is solved.
2. This victory was an ugly one at times, but it counts all the same.
3. “A win’s a win,” Karl-Anthony Towns said after his 25-point, 21 rebound performance against the Nets.
4. Towns’ stat line looks great to the naked eye, and the fact that he went 9-of-11 from the field makes it even prettier. It would have been a perfect night for him had he not completed his quest for a triple-double with 11 turnovers in the victory.
5. During this game Towns could have finished with far more than 25 points, but that’s not an indictment on him. At times the Wolves struggled to feed him the ball on the block, but it did feel as if this game was his most aggressive in terms of demanding the ball when he had a mismatch.
6. As far as that mismatch goes, it was just about whenever he was on the court. Brooklyn’s Jarrett Allen was inactive on Monday night due to illness, leaving the Nets to try and cover Towns with the likes of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Jared Dudley, and Ed Davis.
7. None of them stood a chance.
8. That trio racked up 13 personal fouls on the night. All of them weren’t whilst covering Towns, but they certainly couldn’t contain him physically on the block. Minnesota being unable to find him in the post at times is concerning, but when he did get the ball, he was very effective and efficient.
9. If there was a positive to take away, that was the top one. Today’s NBA is built upon attacking mismatches. The Wolves had a clear one and were able to exploit it.
10. “Of course, they ain’t have a big guy, he was the biggest guy on the court,” Derrick Rose said. “We were going to force him the ball no matter what and see what he has. We’re going to play through mismatches more. I mean, that’s the league now. You see James [Harden] and them. They’ll sit there with the ball and call up whoever they want in the pick-and-roll throughout the entire game. Why can’t we do that? KAT, we’ve got a guy under the basket that can score at an efficient rate, why not give him the ball down there? Tonight, we made them pay.”
11. The theme of the night for Rose in his talk with the media after the game was making the opposition pay. Not only for not having anyone big enough to handle Towns, but also for continuing to leave him open from behind the 3-point arc.
12. Rose has made 19 of his last 31 attempts from deep. That percentage is certainly not sustainable, but teams are going to have to take notice.
13. “They’re giving me the shots. It’s like ‘dare shots’ some of them. They’ll learn. I’m not going to stop shooting them. The only difference is certain teams are running me off the line. It happens late in the game or early in the game as they try and see what’s going on but I’m going to keep making them pay.”
14. At some point Rose will likely regress to the mean a little bit, but until that happens, he’s a huge weapon for the Wolves.
15. Rose was joined in the backcourt by Jeff Teague on Monday for the first time in two weeks as Teague nursed a knee injury. His return to the court was exactly what the Wolves needed as he finished with 24 points and 11 assists in the win.
16. “Jeff can hoop, man. I’ve been playing against Jeff since high school,” Rose said. “I know he can hoop, it’s all about just being healthy.”
17. Teague is still banged up, make no mistake about it. There were a couple of times on Monday when he said he stepped on the foot of another player and came up limping. He exited the game in the first half and didn’t return again until after halftime after the first incident happened. The second time he appeared hobbled he was able to tough it out for the remainder of the fourth quarter.
18. With change coming for the Wolves as newcomers Robert Covington and Dario Saric are expected to be introduced on Tuesday, it may mean that minutes are cut for rookie Josh Okogie. It’s well known that coach Tom Thibodeau likes to stick with a nine-man rotation, and Okogie may be one of the odd men out if that continues to be the case.
19. With that in mind, Okogie continues to do good things for this team. He’s been the most active defender on the roster and isn’t scared to take shots in big moments. After missing his first three 3-point attempts of the night, he stepped into a 3 with the Wolves holding a four-point lead in the fourth quarter and drilled it.
20. As far as this being a sloppy game, the Wolves turned the ball over 23 times on the night. A number that high typically doesn’t bring a victory. This was the first time in the NBA that a team has won a game with 23 turnovers or more since the Golden State Warriors beat the Phoenix Suns in November of 2015. That was the same Warriors team that went on to set an NBA record for regular season wins with 73.
21. Defensively the Wolves still have plenty of holes. Yes, Covington will make them better on that end, but he’s not going to solve everything. It’s foolish to think that’s the case. This is an issue where the Wolves need to give more effort at times on that end. Until that changes, they’ll continue to be near the bottom of the league in that area.
22. Monday night also had one of the more gruesome injuries on the basketball court in recent memory. At the end of the first half Okogie was driving for a layup and Brooklyn’s Caris LeVert challenged his shot, landed awkwardly, and seemingly dislocating his ankle.
23. LeVert was wheeled off with a towel over his head. The Target Center went all but quiet and the little energy that was supplied by the crowd of 10,186 was understandably gone. It’s jarring to see a basketball game come to a complete stop when something that terrible happens.
24. LeVert has been having a terrific year for the Nets and he’s a player they’re very high on. It’s awful to see that he likely has a very lengthy recovery ahead of him.
25. Both Towns and Rose were on the floor for the play and gave good perspective.
26. “This is a brotherhood. We compete at a high level as professionals every night against each other, but at the end of the day we’re all part of this same profession, and all part of this brotherhood,” Towns said. “We all felt for him when he had that injury. We know in our job it could have been any one of us that could have had that injury. We as a team came together and prayed for him. We prayed for his well-being and prayed for his family. He’ll be back. He’s a great player. He’s a player that the Nets really appreciate and he’s going to get exactly what he’s earned.”
27. As for Rose, this marks three catastrophic injuries – not including any of his various knee injuries – that he’s been on the floor for. He was with Team USA when Paul George broke his leg in 2014, the starting point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers at the start of the 2017-18 season when Boston’s Gordon Hayward dislocated his ankle, and now, this.
28. “It’s always terrible seeing something like that. I was on the court for Paul George, [Gordon] Hayward, and his. It’s always in your mind throughout the whole game. Normally when you get out there and get going you gotta forget about it and be professional, but it’s sad to see.
29.“It’ll zap you a little bit. You want to say a prayer, or whatever. We prayed a little bit, but it will kind of mess you up in a way. After halftime I think we were more focused with just getting the win, but he’ll be in my prayers for sure tonight.”
30. The Wolves will practice on Tuesday before introducing the new additions from Philadelphia later in the afternoon.
31. After that, Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans will be in town on Wednesday night. Talk to you then.