Timberwolves Preseason Recap: All the Good Things

Oct 15, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns (32) dunks against Miami Heat forward Willie Reed (35) during the second quarter at KFC! YUM Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns (32) dunks against Miami Heat forward Willie Reed (35) during the second quarter at KFC! YUM Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports /

After five preseason games that were mostly only broadcast in the dark, Timberwolves fans finally got a good look at this year’s team — and dang, was that a great look.

After enjoying a big preseason win on Wednesday night, let’s take a look at just how thoroughly amazing the Timberwolves played and offer absolutely no backtracking due to it being just a preseason game.

Why? Because it’s the time of year for unbridled optimism, people!!

The Timberwolves absolutely trounced the Memphis Grizzlies through three quarters, at one point leading by the crazy margin 88-48 before taking a 91-57 lead into the fourth and final frame.

Where should I start with explaining this dominating performance? With KAT, of course. Karl-Anthony Towns went 7-of-10 from the field and a whopping 17-of-17(?!?!) from the free throw line for a box score stat-line of 31 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block.

Oh yeah, he accomplished all that in a measly 24 minutes of play and sat for the entire fourth quarter.

As great as his stat-line was, he looked even better on the court. Bear in mind, he was matched up against a center, Marc Gasol, who’s one year removed from being 1st team All-NBA and three years removed from winning Defensive Player of the Year. KAT’s quick footwork, veteran post moves, and all-around energy made Marc Gasol look like he ate 17 donuts before the game and went back to his high school days.

KAT made so many impressive plays during the game that it’s hard to count them. But taking the cake has to be in the third quarter when he easily blocked a shot, grabbed the ball himself and dribbled up the fast break, juked out a guard at the rim and was fouled.

Goose-bump-inducing reminder of a young KG, anyone?

At age 20, Karl-Anthony Towns already has the gait and passion of a young Kevin Garnett, the agility of a pre-knee-injury Penny Hardaway, the court awareness and basketball I.Q. of Tim Duncan, and the shooting ability of Dirk Nowitzki (seriously, what other big man in NBA history could you conceive of going 17-17 from the line?!). Decent combination, huh?

If KAT isn’t the best big man in the league already, he might be by January.

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Now, let’s get to the next great performance: Ricky Rubio‘s. The Spanish point guard Ricky really is a conundrum, isn’t he? How can it be possible for a point guard to dominate the perimeter and pace of a game if he shoots just 1-of-2 for two points? Well, he did, and as only Ricky Rubio can.

Despite another trade rumor percolating before the game, Ricky played like a man possessed and fully locked into this team. I have no idea how it’s possible he only recorded only three steals on the night as he was swarming every possible passing lane during his 23 minutes of play.

It seems the Grizzlies offense under new head coach David Fizdale wants to run a lot of high-lows with constant back-cutting by wing players. This is a sound strategy considering the passing ability of their two main bigs, Gasol and Zach Randolph. But this strategy certainly didn’t work against the Wolves, and primarily due to the defensive wizardry of Rubio.

Once the Wolves swarmed the Grizzlies stagnant offense into a turnover or forced missed jumper it was off to the races for Rubio. He led the fast break all night which led to seven assists for him and plenty of highlight level dunks.

Another great performer on the night was Gorgui Dieng. What was the best thing about his stat-line of 19 points (5-6 FG, 9-10 FT), 11 rebounds, 1 steal, and 4 blocks, you ask? How quietly he did it. He even managed to take a few dribbles without traveling! Baby steps, people. Plus, what other teams’ starting four and five could combine to shoot 26-for-27 on free throws and swat five blocks in a game? It’s a very short list, I’ll tell you that much.

Zach LaVine also made some plays, and mostly on the scoring side, per usual, finishing with 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting. The most encouraging thing about watching him on Wednesday was that he played with consistent energy and purpose. Anyone who watched him during his clueless rookie season and steadily improved second season knows that’s a huge deal.

He even looked under control and like he knew what he was doing as he drove to the lane last night (you know, like a real NBA wing player!). Simply put, the game is slowing down for Zach LaVine.

This should be a scary thought for the rest of the league, especially considering he’s at best the Wolves’ third (fourth, fifth?) best player.

The final note on the Wolves brilliance is their shooting. Or rather, their lack of shooting.

The fact that they could shoot 41.3 percent and only 3-of-22 on 3’s yet still thoroughly dominate a playoff caliber team is a great sign for things to come this season, it appears.

The mere fact that they’re even shooting a league-average amount of threes this preseason (about 22 per game) and making a concerted effort to get good three-point looks (you know, like a real NBA team!) should have Timberwolves fans doing the Carlton dance. A lot of those looks were open,and with a few decent outside shooters now on the roster (Rush, Bjelica, LaVine, Towns) those open looks will start falling.

And by the way, the Wolves didn’t even need Andrew Wiggins, who sat out due to an allergic reaction/rest. So there’s that.

In conclusion, it was great to finally get a look at this team last night and they delivered in a big way. The fact most fans had to wait until their sixth preseason game to even catch a glimpse of the team play live may have made the game even more rewarding to take in.

Next: Other Teams Still Making Play For Timberwolves' Rubio

And with that, cheers to unbridled optimism and KAT for president! Playoffs or bust.