Timberwolves top Orlando for second straight win
The starting lineup seemed to find a groove against the Magic
ORLANDO, Fla. — Two road games against a pair of depleted teams should end up in the win column, which is exactly where the Minnesota Timberwolves finished both contests.
But Sunday’s win over Cleveland and Wednesday’s 126-108 victory over the Magic in Orlando can do more than push Minnesota back to within a game of .500.
Not only were they two victories, but two games where the Timberwolves controlled play for seven out of eight quarters can do wonders in the confidence department for a team likely wondering — prior to this stretch — exactly where its season was heading.
That’s not to say all problems are solved. Cleveland was down two all-stars and Orlando had a full NBA team’s worth of talent on its injury report Wednesday. But Minnesota took care of business in the way it needed to and found success it hadn’t experienced much this season.
The starting lineup seemed to find a groove. After D’Angelo Russell went off in Cleveland, Anthony Edwards set the tone Wednesday. He scored 19 first-quarter points en route to a 35-point showing. That paired well with the 30 points dumped in by Karl-Anthony Towns on 10-for-15 shooting.
“Made the extra pass all night long. Really, really unselfish,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “They did a good job of recognizing the game plan and putting it into play offensively. Obviously Ant’s great start kind of launched us, and then everyone kind of fed into the game when their time came, but no one forced themselves onto the game.”
Russell was a prime example. The floor general was quiet for much of the night two days after his 30-point explosion against the Cavaliers. But when Orlando (4-11) trimmed Minnesota’s once 27-point lead to nine on a four-point play in the fourth quarter by St. Paul product Jalen Suggs, Minnesota’s point guard went to work, identifying the proper sets for the Wolves to run to get easy looks and rebuild a comfortable advantage.
Minnesota (7-8) shot 52% from the field Wednesday, a continuance of a trend in which the Wolves are getting and making a high volume of good looks on a nightly basis via ball movement.
“We’ve seen the offense growing now and looking more like it needs to for a number of games. Probably six or eight games now, it’s been on the grow. Phase two of it will be recognizing the different types of defenses,” Finch said. “First we were just trying to find a rhythm and move the ball. Now, it’s about trying to recognize the different types of defenses and how we exploit it.”
Growth is welcomed at this point in the season. As is confidence. That it was the starters who were the ones on the floor closing out Wednesday’s game over a lengthy period of time was another step in the right direction for that unit.
“Because we’ve got to get used to playing with each other for long chunks of minutes, and that’s going to come,” Edwards said.
Finch can sense the improved vibes, but he was quick to note Minnesota still has a long way to go.
“We’ve got to keep proving it to each other. That’s the thing,” he said. “I think we see now more what it feels like and what it can be, but we’ve got to keep doing it.”
The next opportunity to do so is Saturday in Philadelphia. A victory there over a quality team will be further evidence that a leap has indeed been made.
“I think all the guys are happy, and I think we going to win in Philly. I think we going to go on a little roll here,” Edwards said. “I know it’s two games, but the confidence is there and I think we’re ready to take the next step as far as starting to win games.”
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