Player grades from Minnesota Timberwolves’ win over Clippers

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - FEBRUARY 08: James Johnson #16 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - FEBRUARY 08: James Johnson #16 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves suited up five new players, none of them named D’Angelo Russell, and still managed to demolish the mighty LA Clippers by 27 points on Saturday night.

115. 77. 142. 86. Final

The Minnesota Timberwolves roster underwent wholesale changes this week, basically swapping seven players out in their regular rotation.

The headliner of the acquisitions, D’Angelo Russell, is not yet ready to play due to a quadriceps contusion. However, fans who showed up at Target Center on Saturday night were still treated with a show.

From the opening minutes of the game through the final horn, the Wolves played with somewhere between a million and a billion times more urgency and effort than the humiliating loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night in the same building.

Malik Beasley was the early star, knocking down a pair of threes before the first media timeout. But basically everyone was involved, with six different Wolves players hitting 3-point shots in the first frame alone. Ultimately, 10 different Wolves made threes on the night — every player that saw the floor until the final two minutes of garbage time in the fourth quarter.

Minnesota’s offense looked nothing like a team integrating two new starters, plus a point guard on a two-way contract making his first career start. The ball movement was crisp and on time, with the Wolves only committing five first-half turnovers and just 11 on the night before taking a courtesy shot-clock violation in the closing minute.

The defense was solid, too, with newcomers James Johnson and Juancho Hernangomez putting on a clinic in switching and help defense. It’s possible that more opponent ball-handlers were cutoff on the baseline in this game than every other Wolves game this season combined, and that’s only a slight exaggeration.

Karl-Anthony Towns was also a bit more motivated in this one, providing solid paint coverage and enough rebounding. On top of that, he was dishing the ball adeptly on offense, coming just an assist shy of a triple-double.

Clearly, the Wolves aren’t going to shoot 59.1 percent from beyond the arc every night. But if they play with this passion and effort consistently and continue to focus on ball movement and improving their team defense, it’s safe to say that there won’t be any other losing streaks approaching 13 games.

Player Grades

A-. Karl-Anthony Towns had one of the quietest 20-plus-point, near-triple-double nights possible. He only attempted 13 shots but made nine of them, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. The final line was 22 points, 13 rebounds, and nine assists, plus a block and a steal. The only real issue with Towns’ performance was his 1-of-4 from the free throw line, including missing the freebie on the back-end of two traditional 3-point plays. Towns was a true facilitator, both out of double-teams in the post and on the perimeter. Watching him play with Russell is going to be a treat.. Center. Minnesota Timberwolves. KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS

MALIK BEASLEY. A. Malik Beasley was ready to go, hoisting several shots early in the first quarter. But he made enough of them to be effective, including getting extremely hot at the end of the second quarter, heading to halftime 6-of-8 from beyond the arc. He finished with 23 points (8-19 FG, 7-13 3P), 10 rebounds, four assists, one steal and just one turnover in 29 minutes. Beasley’s defense was a bit better than advertised, too. Having a wing player who can catch-and-shoot 3-pointers with efficiency like this is going to be a game-changer for the Wolves.. Wing. Minnesota Timberwolves

A+. <a rel=. Point Guard. Minnesota Timberwolves. JORDAN MCLAUGHLIN

B+. <a rel=. Wing. Minnesota Timberwolves. JOSH OKOGIE

B. Juancho Hernangomez was in foul trouble a couple different points during the game but came on strong as the Clippers were trying to make an early fourth-quarter run, scoring eight straight points for the Wolves. He finished with 14 points on six shot attempts, including shooting 3-of-3 from beyond the arc. Hernangomez also had three assists but just one rebound in 27 minutes.. Forward. Minnesota Timberwolves. JUANCHO HERNANGOMEZ

JAMES JOHNSON. A. James Johnson came off the bench to help defend George and Leonard and did a solid job. He also contributed on offense as the de facto backup point guard, finishing with 15 points (6-9 FG, 2-3 3P, 1-2 FT), five assists, three rebounds, two steals and a block in 20 minutes. If this is what Johnson is able to provide on a nightly basis, than the straight swap for <a rel=. Forward. Minnesota Timberwolves

Other Players

In addition to Johnson’s 15, the Wolves also got 14 points from Naz Reid on the bench, although it took him 13 shots to get there. Reid pulled down nine rebounds in 14 minutes as well.

Jarrett Culver had five points on seven shot attempts in 23 minutes off the bench but was aggressive defensively as one of four or five players who had stretches guarding either George or Leonard. On the new-look Wolves, a defensive-minded role is likely what Culver will be called up on to fill.

Jaylen Nowell had five points, three assists and two rebounds in 11 minutes, pitching in and splitting time with Johnson as the backup point guard.

Allen Crabbe played 17 minutes but only got up two shots. His one made shot attempt was a buzzer-beater at the end of the third quarter. Crabbe also played good defense in this one as the all-around energy on that end of the floor was ramped up considerably.

Jacob Evans, Kelan Martin, and Jarred Vanderbilt all got into the game in the final two minutes of garbage time, with only Martin getting up and making a shot.

Next. What can the Wolves expect from D'Angelo Russell. dark

Up Next

The Wolves head north of the border to Toronto to take on the defending-champion Raptors on Monday at 6:30 p.m. CT.