We Deserved This: 3 Thoughts on a Wolves Stunner
Who saw that one coming? Most Wolves fans probably did not as the Suns took a 15 point lead in the 3rd quarter. We have seen that movie many times this year. The shorthanded Wolves hang around with a superior team until the 3rd quarter when the opposition decides to turn it on. The Suns did just that in bursting out to a lead, but then something peculiar happened. The Wolves fought back. Specifically, Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns went to work in willing their team to victory with a pair of 40+ point games. A feel-good win against one of the league’s best teams is exactly what this team and fanbase needed.
We deserved this. All of the fans who refuse to give up on the team with the worst record in the league. Everyone who watches as many games as they can, and rarely turns it off when the Wolves start getting blown out. They deserve these good feelings. There were some dark times earlier this year. A young team lacked direction, was missing their star player, and had no real plan to move forward. Toss in a confusing coaching switch midseason to really put the icing on the cake in a miserable year. We have been through the trials and tribulations with this team, and maybe, JUUUUUUST maybe the reward is here. Anthony Edwards is an absolute joy to watch. Karl-Anthony Towns is smiling and firing away on the court, and seemingly leading the team off of it. We no longer feel like we are being out-coached on a nightly basis, as Chris Finch shows off deft strategic moves each game. The hopelessness is certainly gone, and it is not only replaced by hope for the future, but actual proof that things will be better for this team. They are on their way to being competitive, and with a little luck they can be much more than that.
An appreciation for Karl-Anthony Towns. I know, Ant was the big story. A lot of other websites have written plenty about his game, which was scintillating, but I would like to acknowledge the other 40 point scorer from the win. Towns has never played with a player who has as much scoring talent and demands the ball as much as Anthony Edwards. Sure, Wiggins was also a large and physically special wing who was unstoppable when going to the rim, but it rarely felt like he needed the ball in certain situations. It seems that Ant will not just float away on offense. He has a NEED for the ball and he wants to score or set someone else up to score every time he touches it. That is an adjustment for Karl, who is still the overall best offensive player on the team. He is not just passing to spot-up shooters or hitting wide open cutters with a pass anymore. He has a responsibility to get the ball to Ant in an advantageous position. KAT will only get better and more willing to do this as he recognizes the value of having a dominant scoring perimeter player like Edwards. Yes, Towns will still have 30 and 40 point games, but his overall effect on the offense may shift to using his scoring gravity to get Ant going. The more he buys into that (and I think he already has), the better off this team will be.
I am not worried about the return of Malik Beasley and D’Angelo Russell cutting into Anthony Edwards’ growth. I understand the argument. Russell has been known to pound the air out of the ball in isolation, and Beasley has been a shot-jacker ready to fire every time he gets a touch. Those are valid concerns, but look at the context of what we have seen from those two, Russell especially. Ryan Saunders was the coach, Towns was out, and Ant had yet to be unleashed. What was Russell supposed to do? Run the PNR with Ed Davis? Him shooting a 3 point shot was one of the best outcomes for the early season Wolves offense (40% on 7.5 attempts/game). Beasley was an awesome off-ball threat (40% on 8.7 attempts/game), but those were the only two real sources of offense. Everything has changed since then. The head coach has revived Juancho Hernangomez, made Jaylen Nowell a bench scoring stud, and found a role for Josh Okogie in the offense. What do we think he can do with D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley surrounding Ant and KAT? I am willing to bet he can work magic on offense. Instead of a KAT/Ant dribble handoff with Vanderbilt, Layman, and Rubio flanking them, they can have Russell, Beasley, and Vando/Okogie/Juancho (choose your PF). I think Finch will be just fine with that! Defensively, that is another story, but that is a worry for another time (maybe the trade deadline!). I am very excited for the return of the starting backcourt.