The Minnesota Timberwolves enter this season with more hype and optimism than any campaign since they acquired Jimmy Butler some four years ago.
Given the perennial loser that the franchise has been for most of its existence, it’s understandable that there was some skepticism to meet those raised expectations.
Beating the Houston Rockets, who will likely contend for the top odds in the lottery, isn’t going to convince anyone who doubts the Wolves will be a true playoff threat. But in winning their season opener in commanding fashion, the Wolves did follow through on many of the preseason developments that indicated they will be an improved group in 2021-22.
Here are three takeaways from an energetic and fun first game of a new NBA season.
Timberwolves Takeaway No. 1: Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards can be an elite scoring duo
When the Wolves put the game away in the second quarter, it was KAT and Ant leading the way.
They combined for 17 points during Minnesota’s 27-11 run to end the quarter and had their fair share of splash plays that got Target Center rocking.
Overall, Towns finished with 30 points on 11-of-15 shooting, including 3-of-4 from three, while Edwards added 24 and made half of his 12 attempts from downtown. Those aren’t crazy totals, but they put them up in just 29 and 31 minutes, respectively.
But the strong impression went beyond the pure points numbers. Towns was noticeably aggressive and efficient against an overmatched Houston frontcourt in a way that reflected his renewed passion for the game (subscription required).
He also displayed the full arsenal that makes him one of the most versatile offensive big men in NBA history; he scored nine points from behind the arc, six on rolls/cuts, five from the free throw line, four on post-ups and four on drives.
Edwards, for his part, did a few things that went beyond the box score. First, he hit some impressive jumpers, both on the move and off the dribble. Edwards’ 41.4 effective field goal percentage on pull-ups last year showed he needed to refine the nuances in his shot, and he showed some progress on that front.
The other thing Edwards provided, which came as no surprise, was momentum-igniting highlights. I don’t care how much of a stats nerd you are (I am one myself), you cannot deny that plays like this that incite teammates and the crowd to take something out of the opponent.
“He definitely feeds off the crowd, he definitely brings energy and gives it back,” head coach Chris Finch said of Edwards after the game to the media.
So that’s the formula for these two to be an elite scoring tandem: Towns brings the aggression and efficiency, Edwards brings the excitement while adding a refined perimeter game to his rim pressure.
Let’s see if they can do it against better teams.