February 16, 2018, 12:28 am
The Timberwolves were down 12 points at one point through the third quarter and it was looking more like the Wolves were just going to drag their feet through the latter portions of the game and into the All-Star break.
The Lakers were humming offensively, controlling the tempo and getting easy baskets all over the floor. They were dominating the offensive glass, particularly Ivica Zubac who had four offensive rebounds and put-backs on the night to go along with 19 points on 8-of-8 shooting off the bench.
The Wolves couldn’t put two stops together in a row and the Lakers’ defense started to tighten the grip. After scoring 35 in the first quarter, the Wolves trended down to 27 and then 22 in the third. It looked like they had just ran out of gas before the extended All-Star break.
Then they were able to get a couple of sparks from the vets. First it was Taj Gibson who picked up offensive rebounds and put-backs on consecutive possessions late in the third quarter. His efforts sparked a run that ignited the Wolves the rest of the game. He finished with 28 points, seven rebounds, one assist, one steal and two blocks.
The next spark came from Jamal Crawford. He banked in a 17-footer shortly after Gibson’s efforts and it was just enough to set him into super-nova. He scored the next eight points for the Wolves, and 11-of-14 during the run. He also picked up a heads-up assist which seemed to wake Jimmy Butler up a bit.
Butler had missed a corner 3-pointer, but the ball was tipped out by Gibson straight to Crawford. Butler’s man found himself out of position and Butler cut to the basket, leaving him open for an alley-oop slam.
Butler went on to score the next nine points for the Wolves, but his signature moment came on the defensive end. Julius Randle had a sure-dunk under the rim. Towns was conceding the basket, not willing to risk picking up his sixth foul, and no one else was around. Butler seemingly came out of no where and blocked him from behind.
Randle saved the ball and passed out to Isaiah Thomas, who then attacked the rim and went up for a layup where Butler came flying in once again and blocked Thomas. This time the Wolves recovered and were able to ice the game at the line. Where Crawford and Gibson sparked the victory, Butler emphatically sealed it.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 16, 2018
In the end the Wolves were down 12 points when Gibson had his first offensive rebound and put-back late in the third, and they went on the out-score the Lakers by 20 points to close out the game with some huge momentum plays.
The Wolves have to be feeling good headed into the break after a victory like that. It wasn’t pretty but the way they closed out the game and took care of business on defense and with the energy plays in the end was the key.
As a team they shot 46.7 percent overall, but just 25 percent from beyond the arc on 6-of-24 shooting. They did make 29-of-31 at the line, however, and only turned the ball over 10 times.
In addition to Gibson’s huge line, Butler finished with 20 points, five rebounds, four assists, one steal and three blocks. He shot 7-of-20 from the floor, including 0-of-7 from the arc. He hit 10-of-11 free throws.
Crawford finished with 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting, with three assists and two 3-pointers.
Jeff Teague quietly had another nice game with 20 points, six assists, three rebounds, two 3-pointers and one block. He looks like he’s shook off his injury and is back in a groove.
Karl-Anthony Towns was quiet offensively with 10 points on 2-of-9 shooting. He made all six of his free throws, though, and added 19 rebounds, four assists and two blocks to his line.
Andrew Wiggins was noticeably absent in the entire fourth quarter. He checked out of the game for good in the third. It remains to be seen if he is injured or if this was Thibs giving Wigs an early start to the break.
He finished with 8 points on 4-of-11 shooting and four rebounds.
Most the the Wolves will get an extended All-Star break, though Butler and Towns will report to Los Angeles and participate in the All-Star weekend. Both players are only slated to play in the All-Star game, teaming up on Team Steph.
The Wolves resume live action as a team next Friday in Houston.