MINNEAPOLIS – Thirteen quick thoughts from Minnesota’s 99-84 win over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night at Target Center.
1. Prior to Thursday night’s game, Golden State head coach Steve Kerr was concerned that his team was going to come out flat against the Wolves. He deemed it a possibility that his team would be a little sluggish. He felt that way even though this was just the second game of a quick two-game road trip and the team hadn’t played since Tuesday.
2. We’re worried about [our energy], and they’re the team that’s on the back-to-back, so I’m sure Ryan [Saunders] is worried about the same thing,” Kerr said before the game. “It just feels like a sleepy day on January 2nd.”
3. Had the Wolves come out with low energy on Thursday, it would have been had to fault them. Wednesday night they played in Milwaukee in a game down to the wire while missing six rotational players. On Thursday, those same six players were out with the same injuries and aliments that caused them to miss the game against the Bucks.
4. For much of the game, it looked like the Warriors were the team on the back-to-back, not the Wolves.
5. The effort level against the Warriors on Thursday mirrored that of Wednesday’s game in Milwaukee. Against the Bucks, just high effort and energy isn’t enough to get the job done. Against the injury depleted Warriors, it was enough for the Wolves to win for the second time in their last three games.
6. “Yeah, as a coach I don’t know if you’re ever satisfied,” Saunders said of the team’s effort and energy level. “There is always work to be done, always things you could improve upon. But when it comes to energy and being engaged, that’s a big positive for us, on the second night of a back-to-back.”
7. This week, despite the loss to the Bucks, has been a successful one for the Wolves. There’s been a real fight shown by this team despite a tough draw of the cards. The last three games have shown a team that’s been hungrier than its opponent, and one that’s willing to work harder. That hasn’t always been the case this season. It’s easy to point back to the loss against New Orleans, the first in this stretch without Karl-Anthony Towns as a moment when the energy level wasn’t where it needed to be, and there may be a few other less obvious examples, too. But against Brooklyn, Milwaukee, and Golden State this week, the Wolves have been the team that’s wanted the win more.
8. “I mean, it’s the NBA, anything can happen, anybody is beatable,” Kelan Martin said. “Whoever comes out with the most energy and most intensity, they’re gonna win. I think we’ve been doing that the past few games, even though we lost. We fell short last night, but we played hard, we competed.”
9. It’s plausible to think that the attitude set forth on Wednesday was the same one that showed up on Thursday, and both those efforts were very similar to the one that was put forth on Monday.
10. The guys putting forth these efforts is what helps to make it even more interesting for the Wolves. A team missing six key pieces is always going to be stretched thin, as the Wolves currently are. A total of five rookies saw the floor on Thursday, and only three players the Wolves had available (Shabazz Napier, Robert Covington, Gorgui Dieng) have played four years or more in the NBA. This roster as it stands is unbelievably young.
11. It was the third straight game the team called up a player from G League Iowa on gameday and played him for 10 minutes or more. First it was Naz Reid, then it was Jaylen Nowell, and Thursday it was Jordan McLaughlin. That’s both a testament to the players being called upon and the staff in place in Iowa.
12. “Guys are playing hard, just in general,” Saunders said. “We’ve navigated through some injuries, some illness, been some personal circumstances that were unforeseen and in a lot of cases, we’ve had guys step up. We know we’ve gone through a rough patch. I said earlier, you learn a lot about people, you learn a lot about team and you learn a lot about individuals and how you handle those situations. I think we’re playing good basketball at the moment. There’s a lot of things we can improve upon that we actually did just talk about as a team in there, not being satisfied. If a young team can grasp that early, then you’re ahead of the curve. So, we have a lot of things we have to improve upon.”
13. This week there was a lot learned about the Wolves as a team, even without so many key pieces, and in a season that hasn’t gone as planned, that’s a positive that can be looked upon.