The Minnesota Timberwolves were back on the road again, after getting a true beat down by the NBA runner-up best team, the Denver Nuggets, by the score of 146-112. That was expected to be a close game, but the Timberwolves faced a rested Nuggets roster, and the team continues to fight through the absence of All-Star power forward/center Karl-Anthony Towns.
While disappointing, the loss extends the current win-then-lose-then-win pattern of February 2023. The loss dropped the Timberwolves in the NBA standings, but still clinging desperately to a berth in the NBA Playoffs. But as the team continues to toggle on or near a .500 record, the risks of losing that playoff berth increase.
Even as the Timberwolves suited up to face the Utah Jazz, a number of players did not. Before game time, NBA Trade Rumors surfaced and reported that a trade involving the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Utah Jazz, and the LA Lakers, was gaining traction. Players named in the proposed trade involved the Timberwolves PG D’Angelo Russell, the Jazz PG Mike Conley, SG Nickell Alexander-Walker, SG Malki Beasley, and PF Jarred Vanderbilt.
Due to the advanced nature of the trade negotiations, both the Timberwolves and the Jazz withheld those players from competing. For the Timberwolves, that meant sitting one starter. For the Jazz, it meant sitting two starters and two key rotational players.
Jalen Nowell’s swag steals the spotlight
Due to the chaotic nature of the day, I was quite curious to see how the Timberwolves roster might perform in the absence of DLo. The Timberwolves were further handicapped by the injury to PF/C Karl-Anthony Towns, the continued suspension of SG Austin Rivers, and the benching of C Rudy Gobert due to his continued struggle with a groin injury. Even Kyle Anderson was unable to suit up due to nagging back spasms. Five players sat for the Timberwolves.
The Timberwolves have consistently been inconsistent this season. Even while the team has stepped up to defeat some very good teams, the team has lost twice to the Detroit Pistons (14-42), once to the Orlando Magic (22-33), and once to the Houston Rockets (13-42).
But in this contest, the Timberwolves played one of their best offensive outputs in some time and scored their second-best performance of the season. While both the Timberwolves and the Jazz were impacted by the trade rumors, it was the Timberwolves team that showed up and remained locked in.
Filling in for D’Angelo Russell was Jaylen Nowell, who had an incredible performance in the last game of the Timberwolves’ recent homestand. He showed plenty of swagger in this one as well, scoring 30 points, tossing out six assists, hauling in four rebounds, and snatching two steals in just 29 minutes of play. He also shot an incredible six of nine from the perimeter, leading the Timberwolves to a 53.5 percent accuracy on three-point shooting on the night.
He combined with Anthony Edwards to score 61 points, distribute 14 assists, hauling in 11 rebounds, and score on 10 of 18 from beyond the arc.
It was a very impressive showing for a full-strength Timberwolves team. But this was a team that has three starters and two key rotational players not suited up for this one. And based on the players, they are a far cry more impactful than the players who sat this one out for the Utah Jazz. The Timberwolves next travel to face the Memphis Grizzlies, a team that will definitely not be holding back.
Let’s hope that Nowell’s swagger lingers for a few more games.