March 11, 2018, 7:55 pm
In a busy sports Sunday afternoon, the Minnesota Timberwolves took center stage in their matchup with the Golden State Warriors and didn’t disappoint.
Losers of three in a row, the task of breaking the season-high losing streak was not going to be easy, but the Wolves proved up to the task. Minnesota came out of the gates hot, shooting 65 percent in the first quarter, assisting on 12-of-15 baskets and hitting three 3-pointers, scoring 34.
The defense was active as well, holding the Warriors to 41 percent shooting and scoring just 24. The Wolves matched-up Nemanja Bjelica on Kevin Durant, Andrew Wiggins on Klay Thompson and Taj Gibson on Draymond Green to kick things off and it was surprisingly effective.
The Wolves weren’t afraid to switch Taj onto Durant, and he held him to 0-of-3 shooting in the first, committing just one foul. Durant was 3-of-6 versus all others. Wiggins locked down Klay, holding him to just 1-of-5 in the first.
Meanwhile the offense was flowing through everyone. Nine players stepped on the floor for the Wolves in the first quarter, and eight scored. Towns and Wiggins combined for 16 on 7-of-9 shooting.
Late in the first quarter, Thibs brought in Derrick Rose to make his anticipated debut. It wasn’t necessarily positive anticipation, but fans were eager to see him back up his recent (animated) comments that he could still play.
Turns out, he is exactly as advertised.
Sounds like the Derrick Rose experience in Thibsesota is off to a rollicking start.
— Aaron Bruski (@aaronbruski) March 11, 2018
Thibs decided to roll out a lineup with Tyus Jones, Jamal Crawford and Derrick Rose, along side Gorgui Dieng and Bjelica to round out the five. The results were about exactly what one would expect.
The Warriors countered the undersized and overmatched lineup and shot 62 percent in the quarter, outscoring the Wolves 38-21. Rose was disastrous himself, going 1-of-5 with two turnovers and a resounding -17 plus/minus in just seven minutes.
Rose was attacking Green at the rim and blocked both times, took floaters in the lane and was well off the mark and generally just didn’t look to set up his teammates at all. He drove into the paint and threw up a prayer, leaving Bjelica wide open at the 3-point line.
His final nail in the coffin was another turnover, followed by a weak defensive effort.
— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) March 11, 2018
Mercifully, Thibs ended the experiment there and went back to his regular rotation. Unfortunately it looked like the Wolves were a different team. They lost their flow on offense, shooting just 30 percent and generating only three assists. The little experiment nearly collapsed the Wolves and it looked like perhaps the losing streak was extending another game.
In the grand scheme, it was only a minor bump in the road. Taking out that -17 sequence from Rose, the Wolves dominated the Warriors. In the first, third and fourth quarter the Wolves out-scored the Warriors by 23 points, shooting 54 percent overall.
The Wolves were at their best when Towns was the focal point. No one on the Warriors could stop him, it was only a matter of getting him the ball.
There were a number of key sequences that allowed the Wolves to stay in the game, all revolving around Towns. He was active diving for lose balls, making defensive plays and finally putting the game away on the offensive side.
WHAT A SEQUENCE!
— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) March 11, 2018
The game was tight coming down the wire, but the Wolves only needed to throw it to Towns and let him go to work.
— CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) March 11, 2018
— Kevin Brand (@KBranded) March 11, 2018
Towns sealing the game pic.twitter.com/RPodsP5yo0
— Kevin Brand (@KBranded) March 11, 2018
He scored 14 points in the fourth quarter alone, and finished with 31 points, 16 rebounds, two assists, one steal and two 3-pointers, shooting 13-of-24 from the field.
Coming into this game, Towns averaged 2.5 shots per game in the fourth quarter. Today he took 10, making six of them. The Wolves needed someone to step into the alpha-dog role with Butler out, and Towns took control today against one of the best.
In a surprising turn of events, Thibs did not return to Rose after his initial stint. He’s notoriously stubborn with his decisions, but Rose’s play was so blatantly ineffective that even Thibs couldn’t return to it.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Thibs waits to go back to it until the Wolves get past this tough part of their schedule. They have four games remaining on the beef, starting on Tuesday in Washington DC before things lighten up. For now perhaps Thibs will be content riding his tight eight-man rotation and feeding Towns at all costs.