The Minnesota Timberwolves (20-22) met the Phoenix Suns (21-22) for the third time this season, and as is often the saying: “Third time is the charm,” the Timberwolves finally eclipsed the Suns in a game that the Timberwolves desperately needed. Of course, the Suns were not at full strength, but it’s a little too late to be grading on the curve for any game played at Target Center.
The Timberwolves continue to face opponents without backup point guard Jordan McLaughlin or starting power forward Karl-Antony Towns. But the Phoenix Suns roster is getting beaten up pretty badly right now as well, and that has placed all of the pressure for this game on the Minnesota Timberwolves.
But for once, the opponent’s injury list is a bit longer than that of the Timberwolves.
There is no room in the game of basketball to pull your shots. The scoreboard only records shots made and points scored, not who made the shot nor whether that player was completely healthy, a backup, or trying to fight off a myriad of boo-boos.
Lesson III: Taurean Prince is a vital charge to Timberwolves’ bench
The Minnesota Timberwolves bench, once a strength to the squad, is really not very good right now. Thankfully, the Timberwolves’ backup PF Taurean Prince was able to shake off an injury suffered in a loss against the Detroit Pistons and play in this one. Taurean Prince scored 16 points against the Suns, and the Timberwolves need each and every point to secure the win. The remaining three bench players for the Timberwolves were only able to 29 points.
Lesson II: Anthony Edwards must stay healthy
There is no getting around it. D’Angelo Russell cannot lead this team. Jaden McDaniels needs to develop offense. Rudy Gobert’s offense depends entirely on how well his teammates involve him on the offensive side of the basketball court. The only player who has the offensive chops to rally the team among the starting five players is Anthony Edwards. Edwards led the Timberwolves and tied all players with 31 points for the night. He also had six rebounds, three assists, and two steals. And he played 37 minutes, still nursing a bruised hip.
Lesson I: Timberwolves’ perimeter defense is absolute crap
Backup shooting guard Damion Lee scored on six of seven from the perimeter to lead the Phoenix Suns artillery in scoring 14 of 23 from beyond the arc. This was a Phoenix Suns team that was forced to play second and third-string players, who just shot 60.9 percent accuracy on the Minnesota Timberwolves. Their free throws only dropped at an 83.3 percent rate.
The Timberwolves either can’t or don’t care about defending the perimeter. But that is an area on the court that healthy and better teams are taking notes on. Of 30 NBA teams, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ perimeter defense is 29th in the league. They are only better than the San Antonio Spurs. But more games like this, and they will easily take over the worst spot.