Dismantled Timberwolves crumble in crunch time

Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

In the wise words of TNT analyst, Shaquille O’Neal, “The Lakers played hard, but this was more about the dismantalization of the Timberwolves.” Whether you want to argue if “dismantalization” is a word or not, there’s no debate the Minnesota Timberwolves failed to rise to the occasion.

Leading by as much as 15 points, the Timberwolves controlled most of the game. Timberwolves power forward Karl Anthony-Towns and point guard Mike Conley found their groove early, combining for 38 points in the first three quarters. This was followed up by a scoreless fourth quarter by KAT, and Conley putting up nine of the team’s 12 fourth-quarter points.

The Lakers cranked up their defensive intensity late in the fourth quarter which ultimately shook the Timberwolves’ offense. When teams do this, the Timberwolves can find success by generally turning the game over to their top playmakers, but Anthony Edwards and KAT  were nowhere to be found. Edwards finished with just nine points, on 3-17 shooting, and 0-9 from behind the arc.

It was disappointing to see KAT  fail to take advantage of favorable matchups, and not demand the ball late in the game when everyone seemed timid to generate offense. But there were reasons for that. With no one to back him up, he had to watch those fouls.

Positive Takeaways

After Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert’s one-game suspension and small forward Jaden McDaniels breaking his hand, nobody thought that the Minnesota Timberwolves would be in the position to upset the Los Angeles Lakers and punch their ticket into the playoffs. Vegas betting lines closed as high as 10.5, and the media all but guaranteed a Lakers win. There are no moral victories in sports, but leading almost 90 percent of the game is something to build on moving forward.

Some positive takeaways were Conley displaying his veteran leadership, and staying composed all game long. His red-hot shooting continued, scoring 23 points for the Timberwolves in a losing effort on 7 of 11 from the floor, and six of eight from downtown. Going back to his days with the Memphis Grizzlies, Conley has played in 63 playoff games, including a Western Conference Finals round in 2013. We’ll need him to be our floor general and help create opportunities for guys like Edwards and Towns.

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Timberwolves power forward Taurean Prince, shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and shooting guard Jaylen Nowell combined for 34 points, with NAW and Nowell coming in off the bench, and provided much-needed offensive production. These guys haven’t seen a lot of action in the postseason, but their play-in-game success might lead to some confidence heading into Friday’s matchup.