Minnesota Timberwolves: Player grades from win over New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Chalk it up to an easy stretch of the schedule or reaching the point where they’ve had enough time to gel as a team. Whatever it is, the Minnesota Timberwolves appear to be hitting their stride.

The Wolves made it four straight victories with a 110-96 victory over the Pelicans in New Orleans on Monday night. In each game of the streak, Minnesota has won by double-digits and held the opponent below 98 points.

Granted, the combined season records of the Wolves’ opponents over their streak is 21-46, but the Wolves are doing what is expected against bad teams: winning easily. And Monday was a microcosm of everything Minnesota has done right recently.

The Wolves racked up 14 steals and beat the Pelicans in points off turnovers by a 28-12 margin. The defense was on a string throughout the night, making life hellish for the Pelicans when they did get a shot up.

Outside of a few crucial exceptions, Minnesota’s offense was bad. The Wolves shot 40 percent from the field — worse than the Pelicans — and only 22.7 percent from three. They augmented that with 21 offensive rebounds and 26 second-chance points, so Minnesota found ways around their offensive struggles.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Player grades from win over New Orleans Pelicans

Karl-Anthony Towns: A-

28 points (10-21 FG, 2-6 3P, 6-8 FT), 10 rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block

Towns has always had issues with Jonas Valanciunas’ physicality in their matchups, as evidenced by Valanciunas’ 21-point, 22-rebound averages in the first two games the two teams played this season. But tonight, Towns handled Valanciunas perfectly.

He was aggressive but always under control from the start, scoring Minnesota’s first eight points and getting to the rim at will. He never stopped attacking during his 23-point first half, and while he did slow down in the final two quarters, that was more a product of the large lead Minnesota enjoyed.

“He was just in a downhill mindset,” head coach Chris Finch said after the game on Wolves Live Postgame. “We just felt if we got him the ball in the middle of the floor with space, he was going to be able to have an advantage there.”

Towns was also Valanciunas’ main defender, so he deserves credit for the Lithuanian big man’s uninspiring 13-point, six-rebound stat line.

Most importantly, Towns never lost his composure as he did in the Wolves’ loss to New Orleans in Minnesota earlier this season. There were times tonight he was hit and didn’t get the call in a similar fashion to that loss, but he stayed focused on decimating the Pelicans instead of complaining about the whistle.

Anthony Edwards: B-

18 points (6-16 FG, 3-9 3P, 3-5 FT), seven rebounds, one assist, three steals, one block

Anthony Edwards was uncharacteristically passive in the first half. He put together some solid defensive possessions and stole the ball twice, but it looked like he didn’t really know how to fit alongside Towns’ big night.

Finch said Edwards “got a knock on the knee early” and that he wasn’t feeling great in the first half, so that likely had something to do with it. Finch said Edwards is fine, to his knowledge.

Edwards finished with inefficient numbers, but he continued to show a knack for finding something to contribute. He drained three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, buoying a team that was 1-of-19 from deep to that point in the second half and allowing a semi-threatening run to the Pelicans. He also threw down one of his patented electric jams.

That, combined with his additions to Minnesota’s defensive and rebounding efforts, elevates Edwards’ grade. He could have looked at the Wolves’ double-digit lead and waited to get in on the action another night, but he showed resiliency by finding his way.

Jarred Vanderbilt: A+

16 points (6-10 FG, 4-5 FT), 11 rebounds (seven offensive), one assist, two steals

The night was an encapsulation of everything the Wolves have come to expect from Jarred Vanderbilt: constant, unrelenting energy, conscientious defensive effort, and unselfish, opportunistic offense.

Timberwolves color commentator Jim Petersen commented at one point that he’d like to see a broadcast with the camera trained on Vanderbilt the whole time. Monday would have been a good night for that to happen, as Vanderbilt was all over the court and tied his career-high in scoring.

Vanderbilt also led the team in rebounding for the contest, which is important considering the way New Orleans smashed Minnesota on the glass in the first two matchups.

“I just knew [Towns] had his hands full on the glass, so coming into the game I was like ‘We need to rebound,’” Vanderbilt told Katie Storm on Wolves Live Postgame. “Just trying to be the hardest-playing team, going out there and making multiple efforts, controlling the glass and getting out to run.”

Jaden McDaniels: A-

10 points (4-7 FG, 2-4 3P), eight rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block

When McDaniels started wearing his headband against the Kings, he probably didn’t think he was changing the power structure of the league. After all, the Wolves haven’t lost since he made that fateful decision.

“I had this look in college, kind of liked it a little,” McDaniels said afterward with a smile. “It’s just cool to see little memes and stuff.”

In all seriousness, McDaniels had another fine all-around game. He contributed his usual disruptive defense, both on- and off-ball, and held his own in Minnesota’s strong effort on the glass.

But McDaniels is always going to provide something defensively as long as he stays on the court. What made this game a strong effort was his continued offensive improvement — it was the third time in the last two games he scored at least seven points on over 50 percent shooting.

McDaniels has been more decisive with the ball in this recent stretch and the shooting stroke is rounding into form. If he continues to add something on offense and stays out of foul trouble, he’ll make a difference just with his presence.

Next. Three takeaways from Wolves' win streak. dark

Up next, the Timberwolves return home to the Target Center to face the Miami Heat on Wednesday.