Saturday night at Target Center against the Chicago Bulls, Wolves starters Robert Covington and Andrew Wiggins combined to take 30 shots.
They missed 29 of them.
This is not about beating up on a couple of players who had difficult nights. But it’s saying something that — even against a banged-up, struggling team like the Bulls — the Wolves still managed a relatively easy 111-96 victory.
“That’s why they call it a team,” said Covington, who made just one of 18 shots.
Indeed. Karl-Anthony Towns had 35 points and 22 rebounds. He had six assists to just three turnovers. It was his third career game with 30 or more points and 20 or more rebounds.
Dario Saric had his best game with the Wolves, with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Derrick Rose, playing against his former team, scored 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting.
The victory — the Wolves’ second straight — improved them to 9-11, 8-3 at home. And it offered further evidence that the team is getting deeper and better on the defensive end as Covington and Saric — acquired in the trade that sent Jimmy Butler to Philadelphia — get comfortable with the team.
“A number of people played well,” said coach Tom Thibodeau, whose team improved to 5-2 since the trade. “We played through KAT. And Derrick, Dario and Tyus [Jones]. That group was rolling pretty good.”
For all of Towns’ huge numbers, it was the Wolves bench that got this done. Reserves accounted for 48 points. It was a lineup of Jones, Rose, Saric, Covington and Gorgui Dieng, beginning in the fourth quarter, that held the Bulls to 1-for-11 shooting over the first six minutes as a five-point lead became 15 (though Towns did replace Dieng at the 9:32 mark).
They were playing so well that Thibodeau rolled with them for most of the rest of the game The Bulls shot 4-for-16 in the final 12 minutes, sealing their sixth loss in seven games.
The Wolves? All sorts of good signs. They had two players with at least eight offensive rebounds in the same game (both Towns and Saric had nine) for the first time in team history. The 58 rebounds and 21 offensive rebounds were season highs.
The Wolves have allowed an average of just 99.5 points in the games Saric and Covington have played.
“We know we have a deep team,” Rose said.
Rose had nine points in the fourth quarter. Towns had 11. Together they had 20 of the team’s 27 points. “It’s all about defense. Offensively we’re going to be fine. But if we’re not going to stop anybody there is no point in going out and playing.’’
Saturday the Wolves were OK without either Wiggins or Covington scoring much because the defense got better as the game went on.
Covington only scored four points. But he had six rebounds, played his customary defense and had three steals and three blocks. The night was more difficult for Wiggins, who was 0-for-12 with one rebound and one assist in 28½ minutes. It was the first time he’d been held scoreless.
“Didn’t have much to offer today, but we still put up the win,” Wiggins said. “Hopefully we can keep it going.”
It was another step for a team getting deeper. And better, on the defensive end.
“A lot better than it was,” Covington said. “It’s communication. When I first got here I saw a couple downfalls. But that’s what I bring to the table. It’s contagious. And that’s going to allow us to get even better.”