The Wolves took another loss on Monday night to the mighty Brooklyn Nets, but that did not stop this game from being one of the most fun viewing experiences for Wolves fans so far this season. Minnesota fought back after falling into an early hole, and the youngest players on the team showed out opposite some of the games biggest stars in Kyrie Irving and James Harden. Here are 5 thoughts on a 5 point loss in Brooklyn:
There doesn’t seem to be a ceiling for Jaden McDaniels. What more do we need to see from the 20 year old before we realize that we cannot put a cap on how high he can rise. The defense is thrilling on a nightly basis. Earlier in the season as he made life hell for Aaron Gordon and Pascal Siakam and Malcolm Brogdon and Luka Doncic we couldn’t help but notice the amazing flashes of potential on that end of the court. Against the Nets he would have to hold firm against the “final bosses” of isolation scoring in Kyrie Irving and James Harden, and Jaden did not disappoint. He was able to get blocks on those players at the rim, contest their step back jumpers within inches of the ball, and generally swallow them up on drives to the paint. Of course, those are the two best isolation scorers in the league so they were still able to score plenty and get to the free throw line, but Jaden’s value is that he does not require much help to guard those guys, so the rest of the defense can stay home on the Nets’ shooters (non-Kyrie & Harden Nets were 4–14 from 3). Offensively McDaniels is a menace in transition with his long strides and silky finishing at the rim, and his catch & shoot 3pt. attempts are getting more consistent. This 20 year old has so much physical maturation and skill refinement in front of him, and he seems to have the right work ethic and temperament to reach his full potential. Wolves fans could not be more excited for the ride.
Weird game for Ant, but he nearly won it for the Wolves down the stretch! For most of the game Anthony Edwards struggled with his shot and playmaking. He finished 0–7 from the 3pt. line and had 0 assists with 4 turnovers. A few of those turnovers were fairly rough looking plays, but the 19 year old also made some of the winning plays that we have not seen recently. Ant added 3 steals and a block, and came soaring in for a few enormous offensive rebounds late to get 2nd chance points. His best sequence came with the Wolves down 108–103 and a minute left in the game when he swooped in to grab an offensive rebound and put it back for a layup, then singlehandedly stole the ball from Bruce Brown and converted the fast break layup, drawing a foul as well to put the Wolves down 1. Although he missed the free throw to tie the game, it was an excellent example of what a player with his talent and physical presence can do to take over a game. I can’t wait to see more of that player in the future.
Ho Hum Karl-Anthony Towns with an awesome stat line. 31 points, 12 rebounds (4 offensive), 5 assists, and 2 blocks for the Wolves star center. Anyone watching could tell he was having a great game, but it did not seem like he was doing anything out of the ordinary. Such is life when watching Towns, as he makes the game look so easy on the offensive end. A locked-in and engaged Towns on both ends of the floor gives this team a much needed hierarchy and structure. Unfortunately the Wolves have missed that player during some stretches against lesser opponents, and they will need that level of engagement and attention on both ends of the court to play this way in the future.
James Harden is absurdly good. I almost forgot after he left the Western Conference, but he is still the best player in the league right now with the ball in his hands. He is not fun to watch for opposing fans. I’ll never enjoy with the foul-hunting drives or watching him launch the same step-back 3pt. shot 10 times per game. But he consistently gets results and is a 1 man offense unto himself. It is almost unfair to have him alongside another scoring wizard in Kyrie Irving, and I shudder to imagine playing against a fully function Brooklyn Nets team with Kevin Durant added to the mix. If healthy, I think they have to be the title favorites, and right now it looks like James Harden is going to lead the way!The Wolves showed they do not need to have a hot shooting night to stay with a good team. This was one of the most important revelations of the night. Minnesota shot 39% from the field against the Nets. I would venture to guess that any team that shoots under 40% against the Nets has not been all that close to winning that game, but the Wolves certainly were. They finally did the little things to impact winning. They defended hard, secured defensive rebounds, and crashed the offensive glass where they knew they would have an advantage. The Wolves ended up with 10 more offensive rebounds than Brooklyn (17–7) and those extra possessions helped them stay close in a game where the Nets shot 47% from the field. These are the types of efforts that will effect winning in the future. Some nights they’ll win easily when their shooters get hot from the 3pt. line, but most games you need to execute between the margins to grind out wins. Every game is a lesson for a young team, and I hope they acknowledged that lesson against the Nets.