Minnesota Timberwolves: Wiggins scores 40, leads Wolves to win over Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK- JANUARY 8: Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK- JANUARY 8: Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Thunder in Oklahoma City for the second time in just over two weeks behind 40 points and 10 rebounds from Andrew Wiggins.

Ryan Saunders’ debut as interim head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves was a doozy, to say the least.

The Timberwolves used a huge night from Andrew Wiggins and emerged with a victory against one of the best teams in the West in a game with plenty of emotional twists and turns.

The Wolves led for much of the first half as Wiggins dropped 23 points before halftime and Karl-Anthony Towns battled foul trouble. After Towns went on a personal run with Nerlens Noel guarding him, he picked up his third foul and headed to the bench. Then, the Thunder went on a run, and the game was tied at 64 at the break.

The third quarter was back-and-forth, with the Thunder leading when Wiggins tried to dunk over Noel. His elbow hit Noel’s face and appeared to at least daze if not knock him out cold in the air. He wasn’t able to brace himself and his head hit the floor hard, and he was clearly unconscious when players and medical staff reached him.

After he was stretchered off, Thunder guard Dennis Schroder apparently thought that some Wolves players were laughing. Or, at least according to this tweet. The “laughing” hasn’t been reported anywhere else, for what it’s worth, but Schroder decided to escalate things nonetheless.

Clearly nobody reasonable would think that Wiggins had any intent with his elbow, and it would be a shock if anyone was laughing at Noel’s injury. It’s obviously a scary situation, and here’s hoping that everything checks out okay. (The latest update is that Noel is at OU Medical Center and will be held overnight for observation.)

Teague received two technical fouls to Schroder’s one and was ejected. With the Thunder carrying plenty of momentum at that point, you’d be forgiven if you assumed that OKC was about to pull away.

But they didn’t, and the Wolves took a fourth quarter lead that they held for most of the frame. A Russell Westbrook 3-pointer gave the Thunder a lead with just over two minutes left, however, but four more points from Wiggins and a massive corner three from Josh Okogie gave the Wolves a lead they wouldn’t relinquish as they pulled ahead by four with 27.8 seconds left.

There was a bit more controversy as Tyus Jones was called for a travel instead of Saunders being granted a timeout, but the Thunder missed three times on their last possession and the Wolves’ defense held.

Star of the Night

Andrew Wiggins: 40 points (11-24 FG, 2-4 3P, 16-18 FT), 10 rebounds, 4 assists, one steal, one block

Wiggins was ultra-aggressive and made his free throws when he got to the line. He played a team-high 38 minutes and grabbed 10 boards while also dishing out four assists.

It’s certainly one of the most well-rounded games we’ve seen from Wiggins this year, and a great sign overall. His preexisting relationship with Saunders certainly shouldn’t be overlooked, and it will be interesting to see if his confidence continues to be sky-high.

Notable Timberwolves Box Score Lines

  • Karl-Anthony Towns: 20 points (8-14 FG, 2-5 3P, 2-3 FT), 9 rebounds, one assist
  • Dario Saric: 15 points (5-12 FG, 2-6 3P, 3-5 FT), 7 rebounds, 2 assists, one steal
  • Anthony Tolliver: 10 points (3-6 FG, 2-5 3P, 2-2 FT), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, one steal
  • Tyus Jones: 10 points (3-7 FG, 1-4 3P, 3-3 FT), 4 assists, one rebound

Towns only played 24 minutes due to foul trouble. Steven Adams is a handful, and Towns was sucked into the games that Adams plays and was whistled for a couple of cheap fouls.

Saric was great throughout and played 25 minutes to Taj Gibson‘s 24. He missed a couple of open 3-pointers down the stretch but simply having a stretch-four that can add that dynamic to a crunch-time offense is a nice twist for Saunders to have at his disposal.

Tolliver and Jones were both solid in their expanded roles as Robert Covington and Derrick Rose remain out and Jeff Teague was ejected in the third quarter.

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What’s Next?

The Timberwolves head back home to take on the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night at 7 p.m. CT.