Wolves vs. Pacers Thoughts & Wizards Preview
The “New Wolves” got themselves a victory in their 21st game of this NBA season as they secured an above .500 record at the season’s quarter-pole for the 1st time since 2017–2018. Though there were several times that it looked like the Wolves’ absences from key players would doom them in this game, Minnesota kept fighting and eventually finished the Pacers off by a narrow margin: 100–98. Take a look at some thoughts from the Wolves Win and a preview of Wednesday’s matchup with the Washington Wizards!
Chris Finch gets weird with it…
Prior to the game, both Jaden McDaniels and Jarred Vanderbilt were scratched from the lineup with flu-like symptoms (not COVID related!). As Wolves fans know, that is basically ALL of the Wolves forward depth. So how does one replace roughly 50 minutes per game in the forward rotation? Simple… Don’t play forwards!
Taurean Prince was really the only Timberwolves rotation player that can be described as “forward-sized.” Everyone else who played outside of the 2 centers were guards including a short stretch of Jaylen Nowell minutes.
Finch clearly decided he was not going to try to replace the size, length, and activity that Vanderbilt and McDaniels provide, and was instead going to lean into an area of significant depth on this roster by using his guards.
At certain points the Wolves showed 4 guard lineups such as the DLo, Beasley, Nowell, Bolmaro, and Naz lineup at the end of the 1st quarter. There were also some interesting “Full House” lineups (3 guards, 2 bigs) such as the Ant, Bolmaro, Beasley, Naz, and KAT lineup in the 3rd quarter.
I don’t expect to see these mixtures very often on a healthy Wolves squad, but it was nice to see Chris Finch was not afraid to experiment on a night when the shorthanded Wolves needed to manufacture a win.
Anthony Edwards goes nuclear…
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… There is not much better entertainment in sports then an Anthony Edwards explosion. It happened again against the Pacers when the Wolves needed it most.
Prior to his 3rd quarter outburst, he was having a fairly sleepy night. So much so that it prompted me, noted Anthony Edwards enthusiast, to Tweet the following:
Oh how naïve I was. Following this Tweet, Edwards proceeded to do this:
-Assist to Towns on fast break Alley Oop
-Pull up 3
-Another Steal & fast break dunk
-Block leading to Alley Oop
-Stepback 3 on the Wolves last possession of the 3rd
That is all within the final 4 minutes of the 3rd quarter. In that time the Wolves went from trailing by 5 to leading by 2 heading into the 4th with all of the momentum and a crowd that was on fire. Ant turning it on at the proper moments has swung a few games already this season. He is a reason to tune in every night, and I can’t wait to watch him again!
Chris Duarte & the Pacers coming unglued
How often are the Timberwolves involved in a game where the referees hand out technical fouls like candy and somehow the Wolves are not on the short end of that stick? Well, not often it seems like!
Early in the 4th quarter it appeared as though the Pacers had enough. For whatever reason they did not like the way the calls were going, especially Chris Duarte. At the end of the 3rd quarter after the buzzer Duarte had a loud reaction to a non-call on his missed layup. The referees likely did not love that, but let it slide.
About 2 minutes into the 4th quarter, Josh Okogie picked Duarte’s pocket so Duarte immediately fouled him. He then lost his mind at the referee closest to him earning his 1st technical. As Sabonis ushered him away, Duarte decided he needed to continue his displeasure and sarcastically clapped at the ref who T’d him up. Nice one, man. That is a recipe for a 2nd technical foul and an ejection. I can’t imagine Rick Carlisle, Indiana’s coach, will be too happy with his rookie after that.
About a minute after that debacle though Carlisle would get into the action during a TV timeout. He apparently voiced his displeasure enough to earn himself a “T” along with TJ McConnell. 2 more free throws for the Wolves.
When all was said and done the Pacers were T’d up 4 times within a couple of minutes and gifted the Wolves 3 points. You just have to keep your cool in these tightly contested games, and they did not. As a Wolves fan I’ll be happy to watch their opponents melt down more often this season!
Previewing the Wizards…
Is it Ok to feel good about the Wolves winning this game? I’m still getting used to this thing where the Wolves are a winning team.
Washington has certainly exceeded the expectations of many so far this season. Sitting at 13–8 and 4th in the Eastern conference is a rosier situation than most could have envisioned heading into this season although they are just 3–5 in their last 8. It makes sense. They are a well-coached team with a star offensive player and a ton of really smart and useful role players surrounding him.
They have not even gotten the typical Bradley Beal season so far as he is scoring just under 23 points per game and shooting under 30% from the 3pt. line. It seems like there will be some positive regression there.
The Wizards net rating overall does make it appear that they are over-achieving just a bit so far. They sit at a +0.1 net rating so far this season. Good for 16th in the NBA. For context the Wolves sit at +1.6 and rank 10th in the NBA.
As boring as it is to say, I think the Wolves chances in this one boil down to health. If McDaniels, Vanderbilt, and the also apparently sick Anthony Edwards are unable to go it will be very difficult to matchup with the Wizards’ size and veteran strength down low. Daniel Gafford and Montrezl Harrell are monsters on the glass. Kyle Kuzma and Deni Avdija are long and voracious wing defenders, and guys like Spencer Dinwiddie, Beal, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are long and smart veterans unafraid to mix it up.
If those guys on the Wolves injury report CAN suit up, I think Minnesota’s recent formula will be enough to win. The Wizards have not been a good 3pt. shooting team this season, ranking 27th in percentage from beyond the arc. The Wolves defense aims to shut down the lane and make the offense kick the ball out to less competent shooters. If percentages hold, that should lead to a lot of clanks from Washington’s shooters and hopefully plenty of turnovers generated from Wizards players trying to navigate a sea of arms in the lane.
Washington is also not a team that crashes the offensive clash heavily ranking 24th in the league in that category. The Wolves are coming off of a game where they allowed Domantas Sabonis to snatch 25 rebounds total and 4 offensive rebounds. It is likely they will make that area a priority in this upcoming game.
Overall I like the matchup for the Wolves, and if Minnesota has most of their guys available to play I see another notch in the Win column to get to 12–10. Don’t yell at me if they lose resoundingly though. Trying to keep the good vibes rolling!