Rockets Blasted: 6 Thoughts on the Wolves Opening Win

Credit: Andy Clayton-King

Rejoice, Wolves fans. 1–0 is upon us. I don’t know about all of you, but I felt a little sense of anxiety leading to tip-off on Wednesday night. I had that same queasy feeling I have gotten in the past when the Wolves put up a stinker to an inferior team. Thankfully this team seems different. Karl-Anthony Towns and his band of rockstars put my mind at ease very quickly in a 124–106 rout and it was clear the Wolves were the more talented and better prepared team. With 1 game down, here are 6 thoughts on the undefeated Wolves:

It only took one shift of regular season basketball for Towns to assert himself as this game’s best player. After 9 minutes of game time KAT already had 9 points and 6 rebounds making a 3, shooting free throws, and scoring in the post. It was clear the Rockets weren’t going to be able to stop him, so he went ahead and improved on that performance in the 2nd quarter notching 12 points on 4/5 shooting in just under 8 minutes. Suddenly KAT was up to 21 and it was only halftime.

Against bad teams, these are the types of monster games we will need to see from Towns. Come out firing, figure out where you can dominate, and go make it happen. I can only assume the gorilla fighting he watched before the game motivated him to wrestle the Rockets into submission before the halftime buzzer.

@DaneMooreNBA via Twitter

Karl-Anthony Towns will surely face tougher tasks this season than Daniel Theis, Alperen Sengün, and Christian Wood. His next two games are going to see him wrestling with Jonas Valanciunas when the Wolves face the Pelicans. Let’s hope KAT keeps this mentality going.

If I told you Jaden McDaniels finished the game with 3 steals and 2 blocks, you would say that’s a great defensive game. Well, that was just his 1ST QUARTER! With Josh Okogie defending the point-of-attack more often, Jaden was left to be the “low man” often rotating to defend the rim and get hands in passing lanes, and man did he do that job well.

When Jaden first broke out last season, that is the type of stuff he was doing. He was an awesome shot contester and seemed to always have active hands. Towards the end of the season I think we were all caught up in his growing ability to defend ball handlers that we forgot just how lethal he can be as a help defender.

He spent the night flummoxing the Rockets with his length and athleticism and finished the night with 4 points, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 blocks in just 25 minutes. 1 more block and he would have ended with a 4x4 night! Either way, his activity and defensive aggressiveness can be a game-changer for this Wolves team.

The best part of Jaden’s night however was his alley-oop dunk he received from Anthony Edwards. On a play that hyped up the entire Wolves bench and roughly 16,000 fans in attendance, Jaden pointed to Ant and said “nice pass” with the enthusiasm of someone who was just coerced into buying a used car. No emotion, just steals, blocks, and dunks.

Everyone got in on the act. Even Malik Beasley, a 6'4" guard, had 2 blocks! Altogether the Wolves swatted 13 shots on the night with Jaden McDaniels and Naz Reid each getting 3.

The new defensive system that Chris Finch and defensive coordinator Elston Turner have implemented is designed to protect the paint at all costs. Opponents should have a difficult time getting clean looks at the rim if all of the defenders are doing their job. Well, the Wolves defenders did their jobs splendidly against the Rockets. There were very few Houston shot attempts near the rim that went uncontested, and Minnesota was able to turn away those attempts 13 times.

Blocks lead to transition opportunities, those opportunities lead to easy points. If the Wolves continue to protect the rim anywhere near this level, the implementation of the defensive system will be a resounding success.

Take it from me, a long suffering Wolves fan. I know a bad team when I see one. Here’s the thing, the team is built to be bad! 7 players on the team were born in the year 2000 or later. That seems impossible. Young teams lose, but there will be fun stuff along the way!

Jalen Green, while he had an inefficient night, should end up being really good someday. He found what NBA defenses are like, and that he will not be able to just get by guys off the dribble every time. He showed some flashes as a passer and did not turn the ball over so that is a great sign. His progression will be fun to watch.

Alperen Sengün seems like he knows how to play as well! I think he is a bit undersized for a center, but he has good feet and a knack for playing in the post. It should be interesting to watch his game expand.

I have never been the biggest Kevin Porter Jr. fan, and last night did not sway my opinion very much. I know they are trying to turn him into a point guard and he is a work in progress, but 9 turnovers and only 3 assists is… not a good start. There is a ton of talent between him and Jalen Green though, so maybe they will be able to put it all together.

Overall Rockets fans know they won’t rack up many wins. The Wolves did what they were supposed to do, and then some. They dismantled a young and inexperienced team that will be tanking this season. That may happen to the Rockets more than a few times this season.

Josh Okogie just keeps showing up. Myself, and many other Wolves fans, assumed he may not even be in the 10 man rotation to begin the season but here he is showing his dominance as a perimeter defender in the starting lineup.

JO ended the game with only 2 steals, but he played a major role in forcing many other turnovers en route to the Wolves amassing 18 thefts on the night. His brand of defense has to be incredibly frustrating for ball handlers. Okogie doesn’t reach in and try to just take the ball away. He waits for the ball handler to telegraph his move, then simply beats him to the spot. Josh has the quickness to get there first, then the strength to stand his ground.

Kevin Porter Jr. was his main victim tonight as KPJ would consistently try to beat JO off the dribble, but Josh simply continued to play fundamentally strong defense using his superior quickness and strength. Porter Jr. ended up turning the ball over 9 times with Okogie spending much of the evening guarding him. Well done, Josh.

I was at Target Center for the home opener, and it was immediately obvious how much the crowd responds to Anthony Edwards more than any other Wolves player in the past decade. Ricky Rubio was beloved and his telekinetic passes got the people on their feet. KAT is another great player that has consistently put up astounding statistics but does not have the raw energy to ignite a crowd.

Anthony Edwards was born for this. The guy electrifies his audience just by being himself. A highlight dunk, consecutive 3’s, or even simply playing great defense sends the crowd into a frenzy. He’s a performer. He is the type of athlete that wants to show something special every chance he gets.

Last season Anthony Edwards was like a great singer that is forced to perform over Zoom calls. Sure they still perform well, but there is a certain energy and emotion that cannot be manufactured. An adoring crowd has to provide it.

For the first time in many years, the good people of Target Center have a star that feeds off of them just as much as they feed off of him. Get your tickets people, you don’t want to miss the show!

-Jerry W.

Analyzing the Minnesota Timberwolves and greater NBA from a fan’s perspective. Twitter: @balleyesnorth Email: balleyesnorth@gmail.com Website: balleyesnorth.com