MINNEAPOLIS - If Wednesday night’s season-opener is any indication, the Minnesota Timberwolves are going to be fun to watch in the 2021-22 season.
The Timberwolves opened with a 124-106 win over the Houston Rockets at Target Center, with their three stars leading the way on the stat sheet. Karl-Anthony Towns scored 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, Anthony Edwards had 29 points and six rebounds and D’Angelo Russell added 22 points and seven assists. It’s the third time in franchise history the Timberwolves have had three players score at least 20 points on opening night.
The offensive numbers are impressive, but the Timberwolves had a 72-45 lead at the half and won the game on the defensive end of the floor. The Rockets finished with 24 turnovers as the Timberwolves had 18 steals, and blocked 13 shots.
"That’s really what we’ve been trying to sell our guys. If we want to be a team that takes a step forward, we have to have that type of defensive approach," Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said after the win. "Everybody is guarding, Ant’s guarding the ball. It’s just kind of contagious. The challenge is now we’ve got to keep it up."
Edwards caught fire towards the end of the first half, and after making a 3-pointer looked at the Houston bench and even told them to call timeout.
"Yeah I was telling the coach to call a damn timeout. You need a timeout. I’m hot," Edwards joked after the win.
Houston went on an 11-2 run to start the third quarter and cut the Wolves' lead to 74-56, but Minnesota answered with an 8-0 run, with six straight from Russell, and never lost control from there. It's an encouraging sign for a team that has a history of letting off the gas, losing big leads and ultimately the game.
The Wolves led by as many as 30 points in the fourth quarter, and the defense was still on full display with Malik Beasley blocking shots and diving for balls before they went out of bounds. It had the bench heaping praise as he went back down the floor.
"It’s about building the culture, the culture that we all have to try and build here. It requires everyone to be active. Everyone has to be engaged into the game and we have to be there for each other," Towns said. "Everyone has to buy in, and I think what you’ve just seen right now is a whole team buying into the goal and into the vision we have."
Minnesota was without Patrick Beverley, who was serving a one-game suspension for a hard foul on Chris Paul in last season’s NBA Playoffs.
The Timberwolves had 26 assists on 42 made field goals, and shot 16-of-38 (42.1 percent) from the perimeter. Towns, Edwards and Russell combined to shoot 27-of-52 (51.9 percent) from the field, including 13-of-24 from the perimeter. Minnesota scored 31 fast break points on the night, and 38 points off the 24 Houston turnovers.
"To have a game like this, first game of the year, nerves are high. Everyone is on a high because it’s the first game, but to go out there and have the discipline to play the defense we’re supposed to be playing, that speaks volumes of our coaching staff and to the players," Towns said. "Those guys in the locker room got it done."
It’s the first of a three-game home stand to start the season for the Wolves, who also have seven of their first eight games at Target Center.