The Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Brooklyn Nets in overtime on opening night Wednesday at Barclays Center behind a huge game from Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Minnesota Timberwolves gave up a huge early lead, came back from a large second-half deficit, and overcame 50 points from Kyrie Irving in his Brooklyn Nets debut to win by a single point in overtime.
Karl-Anthony Towns had a monster game of his own, finishing with 36 points (11-22 FG, 7-11 3P, 7-8 FT), 14 rebounds, three assists, three steals, and three blocks.
The Wolves had an amazing start to the game, jumping out ton 18-point lead midway through the second quarter. The defense was stifling, led by Karl-Anthony Towns anchoring the paint, and the offense was efficient and effective.
But the Nets pushed back a bit at the end of the second quarter and knocked down a buzzer-beater to pull with 12 points at halftime.
The Wolves started the third quarter in sloppy fashion, with turnovers and open shots for Brooklyn galore. The Nets outscored the visitors by a 37-20 margin in the frame and by early in the fourth quarter had built a 98-90 advantage.
But with the score sitting at 98-93, head coach Ryan Saunders decided to roll out a dual point guard look with both Jeff Teague and Shabazz Napier in the backcourt, and the curveball paid off. Minnesota went on an 8-0 run of their own, capped by a straight-away 3-pointer from Towns for a 101-98 lead.
The teams went back and forth down the stretch, with the Wolves wasting a few possessions on deep 2-point attempts from Andrew Wiggins but ultimately staying close in part due to a couple of impressive drives to the rim by Wiggins.
In a 115-115 game with just under a minute left, Towns was switched onto Irving and altered a tough shot just to the right of the paint that missed. After a Brooklyn offensive rebound, Towns picked up Irving in the right corner and forced a missed 3-point attempt to keep the game knotted up.
The Wolves failed to score on their end after another poor shot from Wiggins. However, the Nets’ Jarrett Allen missed two free throws and a put-back attempt by Taurean Prince was blocked by Towns. But Treveon Graham started to dribble the ball up the court before Saunders could call timeout, so the Wolves had to go the length of the court for a shot attempt, which ultimately was a long jumper from Wiggins that missed.
In overtime, the two teams went back and forth again, with Graham starring on offense with a big rebound and an and-one, plus a key assist to Robert Covington in the paint.
With the Wolves up 127-126 and under 14.5 seconds left, Irving had the ball in isolation, guarded by Josh Okogie. As Irving sensed Okogie going for a steal, he spun hard back to his left and lost the ball. Both players dove for it, and although Irving recovered and launched a last-second attempt, he clanged it off the rim and the Wolves were victorious.
Did Irving see visions of Okogie’s block-heard-’round-the-world on James Harden last year as he was beginning to make his move? More than likely.
At any rate, this was a solid win for the Wolves, overcoming an impressive performance from one of the league’s most dynamic players.
Rookie Jarrett Culver scored four points on 2-of-5 shooting and grabbed two rebounds in just 16 minutes. He ran a few offensive sets while on the floor with Shabazz Napier but perhaps not as often as expected. He did have one impressive steal in the open floor but followed it up by air-balling an ill-advised 3-point attempt.
Noah Vonleh played 14 minutes at center in relief of Towns. He had a strong first-half stint that included a few impressive rebounds, but entered the game in the waning seconds of regulation with the task of boxing out Taurean Prince and failed to do so. That missed box-out nearly cost the Wolves the game, but Towns blocked Prince’s put-back attempt.
The Wolves head to Charlotte to take on the Hornets at 6 p.m. on Friday night. The Hornets defeated the Chicago Bulls by one on Wednesday in their home opener.