MINNEAPOLIS – Twenty-three quick thoughts for the 23 minutes played by Taj Gibson in Minnesota’s 135-130 overtime win over the Washington Wizards on Saturday night at Target Center.
1. The Wolves won this game, but in the big picture, the victory is meaningless. Only one thing matters coming out of Saturday night’s game against the Washington Wizards, and that’s the health of Karl-Anthony Towns.
2. Late in the fourth quarter, Towns had to pull himself out of the game, limping across the court before he made it to Minnesota’s bench. He played 37 minutes, finished with 40 points and 16 rebounds, but none of that will be remembered.
3. In the best-case, this will be remembered as the night Towns had an injury scare and the Wolves pulled through without him. In the worst-case, well, this was the night that Towns’ career was altered due to injury.
4. Prior to his car accident right after the All-Star break, Towns had never missed a game in the NBA. He had started all 82 games in each of his first three seasons and all 57 games before the break this year. He’s had the good fortune of being healthy for almost all of his career.
KAT pulled up with gimpy with a leg injury and hobbled to bench, then said "it just popped" pic.twitter.com/ZRfIy1AO3b
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) March 10, 2019
6. Towns missing time in the near-future wouldn’t be all that big of a deal with this season’s playoff dreams all but dashed. He shouldn’t step on the floor in game action until he’s back to 100 percent health. While it’s understandable that interim coach Ryan Saunders needs to win as much as possible in order to try and secure the position on a permanent basis, Towns is the most important person on the payroll of the franchise. The best decision for the franchise is to utilize extreme caution with Towns.
7. Immediately following the game, Saunders didn’t have much information on the situation other than Towns would undergo further testing Saturday night. The 7-footer wasn’t in the locker room when the media was allowed in after the game, likely undergoing testing at that time.
8. Whether Towns is able to play in the short-term isn’t of much concern, but what results of his testing could be franchise-altering for a team stuck in the middle.
9. Aside from the Towns injury, this was a somewhat impressive win for the Wolves. Andrew Wiggins was unavailable with a left thigh contusion and Keita Bates-Diop received his first career start in Wiggins’ place.
10. Bates-Diop played well in his opportunity. The rookie fit in, didn’t try to do too much, and let the game come to him. There are times when rookies can feel overwhelmed on the court, especially in big moments such as a first career start. That wasn’t the case at all for Bates-Diop.
11. “He did a lot of good things. Playing 36 minutes and guarding an All-NBA player and All-Star in Beal for a good portion of the game. He did a nice job with that,” Saunders said after the game. “Getting 12 points… He was active. He really did try to play within himself.”
12. Bates-Diop played the final 12:10 of the game, a big step for a rookie to be so heavily involved down the stretch of a close win. It showed that the coaching staff has faith in him, even if he hasn’t done much to date on an NBA floor.
13. “To start two rookies, and one in Keita playing 36 minutes and playing formidable minutes down the stretch, you do have to have confidence in him,” Saunders said. “It’s more about how he is a cerebral player. He’s smart. That always gives coaches, and should give people more confidence in a guy like that.
14. “He’s matured probably beyond his age. It’s his daily approach. He’s got a good sense of humor when you’re around him but he has a very workman-like approach when he comes into the gym. On the court he’s ready to just get to work, get his work in. He’s always looking to try to improve. Seeing that, and actually in my assistant role for half the role I was with Keita. Keita was one of the guys that I worked with. I was able to be around him and see how he really did ask the right questions and just have that approach which in turn does give you more confidence in a guy like that.”
15. “That gives me a lot of confidence,” Bates-Diop said of Saunders believing in him. “Obviously, my teammates give me confidence, but to hear that from the coach and the coaching staff, that’s big for me.”
16. Bates-Diop wasn’t the only rookie to help the Wolves. Cam Reynolds, playing on the second 10-day contract given to him by the Wolves, played 20 minutes for Minnesota on Saturday night. His stat line was nothing to marvel at, but he looked like he belonged. He missed a couple of open shots, but held it together for the Wolves in his time on the floor.
17. The future for Reynolds isn’t as solidified as it could be for Bates-Diop, but just getting something out of a 10-day contract is a win for the Wolves front office. One they needed, too.
18. Once Towns left the game in the fourth, it meant more time on the floor for Derrick Rose.
19. Rose was electric for the most part on Saturday night, lifting the Wolves with 29 points on 13-of-23 from the floor. He was huge with 16 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
20. Simply put, the Wolves don’t win this game without Rose’s offensive night.
21. In the games when Rose is feeling it, he’s a joy to watch. His finishing around the rim is tremendous, as he’s able to contort his body to find a way to get the ball past taller, longer defenders as it finds a way to the bottom of the net. These flashes remind some of what could have been had injuries not taken their toll on the former No. 1 overall pick.
22. Those injures have impacted this season, no doubt. It’s a legitimate question of whether or not Rose will be able to suit up the day after playing over 30 minutes for the first time since Jan. 20. Under Saunders, it’s only the second time Rose as eclipsed the 30-minute mark.
23. The Wolves will be back in action on Sunday night at Target Center against the New York Knicks.