For many basketball fans, flipping the calendar from February to March signals one specific feeling — madness. With “The Big Dance” just around the corner, countless teams around the country are starting to tighten rotations, emphasize execution, and come together as they look ahead towards postseason play.
Unfortunately for the Minnesota Timberwolves, they don’t technically qualify for the NCAA tournament (nor will they qualify for their own league’s tournament). Nevertheless, the Wolves showed Wednesday night that sometimes it’s not how you start, but how you finish that can define a season in the Association.
After a horrid stretch of losing 18 of 19 possible games dating back to early January, the Wolves knocked off the Chicago Bulls at home Wednesday night, and in doing so secured their third victory in the last five games. The 115-108 result was also the team’s first two-game winning streak since January 5th, and the first multi-game winning streak since Gersson Rosas unveiled Wolves 2.0 back in mid-February.
A quick glance at the box score shows that the home team got solid contribution from multiple members of the roster, including 4 of 5 starters scoring in double figures (the wolves also got double-figure output from both Jordan McLaughlin and Jarrett Culver). Speaking of JC, the rookie from Lubbock, Texas has had a rollercoaster season thus far, flashing his potential as a two-way threat one night and then displaying a lack of confidence (and shooting mechanics) the next. In a game that featured another highly-touted rookie in Chicago’s Coby White, Culver did well in his 21 minutes, tallying 13 points and 5 rebounds, and connecting on 3-of-6 from deep. If you’re scoring at home, White finished the game 2-of-7 from beyond the arc, so I think we can settle the debate once and for all who the better shooter is.
While on the topic of shooting — Malik Beasley! The former Denver Nugget showed once again why he *should* be a significant piece of the future going forward, dropping 24 points on an effective 8-of-14 shooting, including this uber-efficient finish off the D’Angelo Russell dime:In his 11 games with the Wolves since being acquired from Denver in the Robert Covington trade, Beasley is averaging 21.3 points on 49% shooting, and is connecting on just under 45% of his attempts from deep. While the contrarian may argue that Beasley’s output is just another example of small sample size mixed with a player being in a contract year, it’s becoming harder and harder to see how Rosas and his front office doesn’t find a way to keep the flame-throwing 23-year old this summer, regardless of how much he may cost.With Karl-Anthony Towns still sidelined with a wrist injury, no game recap can truly be complete without a quick check-in on Big Nazty himself Naz Reid. The undrafted rookie posted his second straight double-double of his career, notching 16 points and 11 rebounds in just 25 minutes of play (the big man out of LSU also added 3 assists and 2 blocks).
Simply put, Reid’s development this season has been nothing short of a miracle. Forget the part about being an undrafted rookie — if you watched Naz Reid early in Summer League last summer, you saw a guy who could barely jump over the free throw line, let alone put someone on a poster. On the defensive end, Reid was a 6’9” turnstile early on, racking up two quick fouls before many fans could even make their way to their seats. For Reid to look THIS much better in THIS short period of time is a true testament to both the Wolves coaching staff as well as the great folks down in Iowa. With Reid signed for three more years at just north of $1 million per season, the Wolves front court appears to be in great hands going forward (insert KAT wrist joke here __________).Game Notes
With his 16 and 11 performance Wednesday night, Naz Reid became the 16th Wolves rookie to record multiple double-doubles in his first season.
File this under the “I had no idea this was happening” category: Jarrett Culver has now connected on 43% of his three-point attempts since the trade deadline (35 attempts).
On a night where the Wolves shot 50% from the field (40-of-80) and 44% from deep (19-of-43), they connected on a putrid 64% of their free throws, which has been a low-key bugaboo for the team all season (and for as long as I’ve been a consumer of oxygen). Things were so bad from the charity stripe on Wednesday that even Kelan Martin, who had connected on his first 29 consecutive free throws to start his career (an NBA record), missed one mid-way through the second quarter.
Otto Porter, Jr., who was playing in just his second game since November due to injury, tallied 18 minutes and scored only 2 points. While the Bulls have a plethora of problems to solve going forward, getting Porter to regain some of the promise he flashed earlier in his career is definitely near the top of the list.
To end the night on another high note, we now go live to a shirtless James Johnson for his postgame thoughts on the Wolves back-to-back victories: