Player grades from Minnesota Timberwolves’ loss to Phoenix Suns
Let’s hand out a few player grades from this one.
Karl-Anthony Towns: D
15 points (6-13 FG, 0-3 3P, 3-3 FT), 11 rebounds, two assists, three blocks
Jarred Vanderbilt: C-
12 points (5-11 FG, 2-2 FT), 12 rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block, three turnovers
We’re doing these grades together because Towns and Vanderbilt’s performances were connected.
The teams started out cross-matching their big men on both ends. Towns had his way with Crowder early, using his size advantage to score in the intermediate area of the court. Towns also got into foul trouble again, though, and picked up a technical and a flagrant foul, the latter of which resulted in a six-point swing that helped Phoenix take the lead in the fourth quarter. He only scored three points in the second half.
Deandre Ayton, meanwhile, made his hay right at the rim, punishing smaller players on switches by wracking up seven offensive rebounds and scoring a career-high 35 points. Vanderbilt brought his typical energy but was unable to compete with the bigger Ayton on the boards. He also had his regular issues with controlling the ball while shooting around the rim.
Both teams switched up their looks so that both Towns and Vanderbilt saw plenty of Ayton on both ends, which doesn’t reflect well on either given Ayton’s stat line. Minnesota will have to figure out how to bother big bodies more consistently when the postseason rolls around.
Anthony Edwards: B
19 points (7-17 FG, 3-8 3P, 2-2 FT), four rebounds, four assists, one steal, four turnovers
As he has often recently, Anthony Edwards took on the responsibility of guarding the opposing team’s best offensive player, and he stayed in Booker’s grill. His physicality was an issue for Booker early, but it was also the primary factor behind Booker getting to the line 16 times, where he found his rhythm en route to 28 points.
Edwards’ defensive effort seemed to ease him into his offense, though; after a fairly quiet first quarter, he came alive with a couple triples in the second, which Minnesota won 34-26 in building a double-digit halftime lead.
But the strange missed layup trend that has dogged Edwards reared its ugly head once again. Edwards shot just 4-of-9 on 2-point shots in the game, and many of the misses came on seemingly simple looks at the basket as Minnesota lost control of the game in the third quarter.
D’Angelo Russell: F
Six points (3-9 FG, 0-5 3P, 0-1 FT), three rebounds, seven assists
Russell had a few moments in the fourth quarter, but overall he was far too quiet in such a big game.
It was one of those games where Russell’s jumper never fell, and his inability to get easy looks at the rim can result in him vanishing on these cold nights. Booker defended Russell even better than Edwards defended him, staying in front and not falling for the rip-throughs and other tricks in Russell’s bag.
“He got good looks, he just hasn’t connected on them. It was just one of those nights,” Finch said of Russell.
Minnesota falls to 1.5 games back of the Nuggets for the Western Conference’s sixth seed. Up next is a rematch with the Mavericks at Target Center on Friday.