Minnesota Timberwolves: Player grades from blowout loss to Cavaliers

Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves talks to referee Ben Taylor. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves talks to referee Ben Taylor. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

The Timberwolves losing streak was extended to five games with a resounding 123-106 home loss against the Cavaliers on Friday night.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Player grades from blowout loss to Cavaliers

Cleveland built a double-digit lead early and never trailed, leading by as many as 33 points. Minnesota dropped to 0-5 in December as Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards struggled to score while D’Angelo Russell remained sidelined with right ankle soreness.

Jarred Vanderbilt: B-

9 points (3-6 FG, 1-1 3P, 2-3 FT), 8 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists

Vanderbilt gave solid energy and effort as usual, including a smooth left-handed block on Darius Garland in the first quarter.

He contests shots at the rim, hits the glass hard, and looks to finish through contact. Vanderbilt recorded nine points, eight rebounds, and three steals in 30 minutes but showed a lot of room for improvement on defense as Cleveland’s big men had a field day.

Lauri Markkanen and Evan Mobley looked comfortable attacking Vanderbilt inside and on the perimeter. Markkanen led the way with 15 points in the first half on a perfect 4-for-4 on 3-point attempts, while Mobley got several layups in the paint.

The Timberwolves’ interior defense was bad as a whole, allowing 62 points in the paint, and Vanderbilt’s lack of size was apparent as he couldn’t match up with Cleveland’s supersized frontcourt.

Karl-Anthony Towns: C

21 points (8-19 FG, 0-7 3P, 5-6 FT), 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists, 5 turnovers

Towns was never able to find a rhythm shooting from the perimeter and was even worse on the defensive end.

The Cavaliers continuously got easy looks around the rim in the first quarter, picking Towns apart in the pick and roll and getting out in transition. Towns has never been a dominant rim protector for the Timberwolves and that was magnified on Friday as Jarrett Allen and others outran and outworked him.

Since returning from a bruised tailbone injury on Monday, Towns has led the team in scoring three consecutive games while shooting 48.1 percent from the field. He finished with just 21 points on 0-for-7 shooting from 3-point range in the blowout loss. Towns can be one of the best big men in the NBA at times but there are also plenty of off nights and that was the case against Cleveland. His slow start was a big reason why the Cavaliers jumped out to a 20-4 lead.

Anthony Edwards: C-

13 points (6-17 FG, 1-8 3P, 0-0 FT), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 3 turnovers

The sophomore guard was almost as bad from beyond the arc, going 1-for-8 from the 3-point line in 33 minutes.

Edwards was being defended by Isaac Okoro for the majority of the game, who did a great job of contesting jump shots and generally making things difficult. Okoro’s impressive length and strength seemed to bother Edwards, who shot 4-for-12 from the field and 1-for-5 from 3-point range in the first half as Cleveland took a 21-point lead into the break.

Notably, Edwards didn’t attempt a single free throw in the game.

We’ve seen a lot of games like this from the former No. 1 pick as he continues to grow as a player and shot creator. With starting point guard Russell missing his third consecutive game, Edwards had a chance to flash his playmaking ability but failed to do so.

He totaled 13 points, four rebounds, and two assists in a less-than-inspiring performance. One thing Edwards has proven since being drafted is he won’t let one bad shooting night have a lasting effect which is a good trait to have.

The Timberwolves will look to break a five-game losing streak as they hit the road for a pair of division matchups.

Chris Finch’s team will take on the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday before facing the Nuggets on Wednesday night. Minnesota fell to 11-15 with the loss and is now tied for No. 9 in the Western Conference.

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Of course, it’s not going to get any easier as the Timberwolves are scheduled to play five consecutive playoff teams from last season in the next couple of weeks.