Minnesota Timberwolves: Player grades for Wolves win over Nets

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 23: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets guards Robert Covington #33 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 23: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets guards Robert Covington #33 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Brooklyn Nets in overtime on opening night Wednesday at Barclays Center behind a huge game from Karl-Anthony Towns.

86. 126. 147. Final/OT. 127

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.

Karl-Anthony Towns was fantastic in the season opener. There wasn’t really an area in which he struggled, other than his typical cheap foul or two. It nearly became an issue in overtime when he picked up his fifth, but he did an admirable job of staying on the floor down the stretch. His 7-for-11 showing from beyond the arc is absolutely a sign of things to come, and it was a lot of fun to see him dominate from behind the arc early and in the post in the second half before finishing the night with another pair of devastating threes.. Center. Minnesota Timberwolves. KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS. A

Wing. Minnesota Timberwolves. ANDREW WIGGINS. B. <p>Andrew Wiggins had a miserable game outside of a handful of absolutely critical scoring drives down the stretch. It was an uncanny case of Jekyll and Hyde, as Wiggins had three or four unconscionable shot attempts from just inside the 3-point arc with the game in the balance. But then, he had three or four gorgeous downhill drives that ended in tough baskets at the rim or floaters in the paint. Somehow, Wiggins managed to attempt a team-high 27 shots, making only 10 of them. He finished with 21 points and eight rebounds.</p>

B+. Robert Covington finished with a quiet 15 points and nine rebounds. He was 6-of-11 from the floor and 3-of-6 from beyond the arc, and it’s easy to forget that he drained his first three long-balls with ease, including one from the edge of the mid-court logo. RoCo cooled off as the game went on but was active as a cutter and solid on defense as always.. Forward. Minnesota Timberwolves. ROBERT COVINGTON

Guard/Forward. Minnesota Timberwolves. JOSH OKOGIE. A-. Okogie came off the bench and tied for a team-low 14 minutes among the 10 players that appeared in the game, but he had a huge stretch with a 3-pointer and a steal when the Wolves needed it most, plus the game-winning stop on Kyrie Irving as time expired. His energy and shut-down defense will play night-in and night-out. Okogie’s line was 11 points (2-5 FG, 1-4 3P, 6-8 FT), three rebounds, three assists, and a steal, plus a +22 plus/minus in just 14 minutes.

JEFF TEAGUE. B. Jeff Teague had a quietly solid night as he was tasked with trying to slow down an ultra-aggressive Irving. He did an okay job and was decent on offense, although he appeared tentative once again. Teague shot 5-of-8 on his way to 14 points, four assists, three rebounds and a steal.. Guard. Minnesota Timberwolves

TREVEON GRAHAM. B. Treveon Graham got the start against his former team, and while he had an inefficient shooting night (4-of-13), he had a few huge plays down the stretch, including an offensive rebound and and-one followed by an impressive bounce pass to Covington in the paint for a lay-in to build a four-point lead in overtime. All that said, the Wolves aren’t likely to win too many games with Graham attempting 13 shots this season.. Wing. Minnesota Timberwolves

B. Jake Layman came off the bench and played 23 minutes. He was red-hot early, scoring eight points on his first three shots. He finished with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting and 2-of-4 from beyond the arc. The Wolves ran a couple of plays for him to get open 3-point attempts, and it will be interesting to see how many counters they’ll run off of similar action throughout the year as they seem interested in getting Layman back-cuts and lobs at the rim.. Forward. Minnesota Timberwolves. JAKE LAYMAN

B-. Shabazz Napier played 21 minutes in his Wolves debut. He shot only 1-of-7 from the floor and missed all six of his 3-point attempts but had seven assists in addition to his five points. Napier was a +17 when he was on the court, however, and his stint alongside Teague was impressive. It’s clear that Napier will be a big part of any success this team has this season.. Guard. Minnesota Timberwolves. SHABAZZ NAPIER

Other 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.

Next. The Wolves will win 40 games in 2019-20. dark

Up Next

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.