The Minnesota Timberwolves moved to 2-0 on the season for the first time since 2015-16 win a 121-99 win over the Charlotte Hornets on the road on Friday night.
Here are three takeaways from the victory:
The Wolves got off to a terribly slow start on Friday night in Charlotte. At one point in the first quarter they trailed the Hornets 19-4. Minnesota got off to an abysmal start to say the least, but it felt like they were rescued by two guys in particular: Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie.
The Wolves struggled to connect from deep early on, finishing the first quarter just 2-of-10 from 3-point range. That sent Towns inside to the basket where he was able to help the Wolves climb back into things. In the first half Towns finished 8-of-13 from the floor, with five of his makes coming at the rim. After the slow start, he was the biggest reason the Wolves were able to turn it around.
On the other end, Okogie checked into the game with the Wolves trailing 21-8. Things immediately turned around as Okogie played the rest of the quarter and the Wolves found themselves trailing by only two at the end of it.
Okogie has his flaws offensively, that’s no secret. He struggles to shoot from the outside and often times will be the guy that opponents dare to take open 3-pointers. It’s also no secret that good things happen when Okogie is on the floor. In the first half alone Okogie was a game-high +17 in 15 minutes after being the first guy off the bench for the Wolves. Due to his offensive limitations, there’s a case for Okogie’s minutes to be limited, but that case is nullified when the entire picture is shown right now. He finished the game with 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting, four rebounds, three assists, and was a +28.
Even when his shooting isn’t going well, he tends to have a knack for finding the rim either off the dribble or more frequently as a result of cutting when off the ball.
Yes, Towns was just mentioned above, but that doesn’t do his game justice, at all. It’s really early, but Towns already looks like one of the best players in the NBA. Right now, he looks not only like his game is taking the next step, but rather he’s taking a leap. That’s rather impressive considering he was already an All-NBA caliber player.
Not only has Towns been an offensive force – there have been improvements on that end, don’t worry – but more impressively he’s transformed into one of the better defenders on the Wolves. In the first two games Towns has been a force on the defensive end of the floor in a way that he hasn’t shown throughout the majority of his career. On opening night, the Brooklyn Nets shot just 20-of-40 at the rim, and through the first three quarters on Friday night the Hornets were 11-of-17. Wednesday night’s number isn’t all that impressive, but it’s certainly an improvement for Towns.
On the offensive end he’s always been good, but he’s better now than he’s ever been. The third quarter was a work of art for him. In the game, he finished with 37 points, 15 rebounds, and eight assists. In the third quarter alone, he had 17 points on 5-of-5 shooting, five rebounds, and two assists. He just took over for the Wolves in a way that few guys can.
Feast or famine
There used to be a sentiment that a team that relied on the outside shot was a team that wouldn’t be able to win an NBA championship. Over the last few years that notion has been squashed, but the first half for Minnesota was a big reason why that used to be a thought. Now, don’t get this confused with thinking that the Wolves are a title contender right now – they’re not – but it’s hard to win any game in which a team opens up shooting 4-of-19 from beyond the arc as the Wolves did in the first half.
They did shoot it better in the second half, finishing the game 12-of-38 from deep.
There are going to be nights like that for the Wolves where they struggle from deep. Luckily, they’ve got a guy like Towns that can bail them out in other ways, but it still could make for a few painful games offensively.