The Minnesota Timberwolves (16-21) learned hours before suiting up to face the best team in the NBA Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets (24-12), that they would not only be without the usual absentees of PF/C Karl-Anthony Towns, PF Taurean Prince, and backup PG Jordan McLaughlin but that backup center Naz Reid was suffering from back spasms and starting point guard D’Angelo Russell has contracted an illness. As a result, neither Reid nor Russell would be able to suit up.
The Timberwolves roster continues to be subject to wildly impactful but unpredictable hits, a phenomenon that has plagued the team almost the entire first half of the 2022-23 NBA season. Not just a battering of injuries and illnesses, but the multiple hits to a roster that has been focused at power forward and point guard, forcing the Timberwolves to become quite creative in how this team has adapted to such instantaneous adverse conditions.
A1 field general
For starters, the team slid SG Anthony Edwards over to a point guard role, allowing the team to promote backup SG Jaylen Nowell into the starting five. Secondly, the Timberwolves stuck to a nine-player rotation, which included veteran guard Austin Rivers, seldom-used forward Nathan Knight, rookie forward Matt Ryan, and rookie center Luka Garza.
The gamble paid off handsomely early in this one, as the Timberwolves seemed to click on some basic but often absent professional basketball fundamentals: Pace. Space. Pass
The Timberwolves’ ball movement was as good as it has been all season, as four players in this game ended with 4+ assists. And the tag team effort of defending Nuggets star Nikola Jokic was surprisingly effective, as he fell short of his season averages of points, FG percentage, 3-point percentage, assists, and rebounds.
The opposite was true of Minnesota Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards, who brought his A-game as he outperformed his own season averages with points, rebounds, and assists.
In the end, the Minnesota Timberwolves won a game that this team had to win. They were severely short-handed and entered the game as homecourt underdogs. It was a good win, a rally of sorts for players who may not have had their due in the spotlight. But at the same time, it was just one win.
We’ll sort through the game and its impact with subsequent articles. But for now, the Timberwolves’ downslide has ended.