Timberwolves rookie Josh Okogie was asked about his team’s improved energy on Monday night after their 124-120 win over the Lakers.
“Who did we play on Friday?” Okogie asked.
That would be the Bucks, who handed the Wolves a 30-point shellacking in which the Wolves looked listless. Monday that wasn’t the case. The Wolves had plenty of energy to match the fast-paced Lakers, who entered the game registering the most possessions per game of any team.
But the Wolves matched their intensity and came away with a needed victory after it looked like the tension around the Jimmy Butler trade saga looked like it was about to consume them.
“I thought the energy to start the game was terrific and I think that’s important for us,” Tom Thibodeau said.
That came after the Wolves buried themselves in first-quarter deficits against Milwaukee and Toronto. In a weird way, Butler said, the Lakers energy fed into the kind of effort the Wolves put forth.
“They were playing fast, which made us play with a lot of energy,” Butler said. “Their energy helped ours.”
Added Karl-Anthony Towns: “We just wanted to play fast. We know they’re a very good transition team but we want to utilize our transition ability.”
They did that to the tune of 21 fast-break points, the third time this season the Wolves have had more than 20 points in that category. They had just two such games last season.
James’ big quiet night
LeBron James had a great stat line – 29 points, 10 rebounds and seven rebounds – but it never seemed like he took the game over the way he usually does. He committed a late turnover with the Lakers down two before Butler iced the game with a 3-pointer on the other end.
Butler had the responsibility of guarding James most of the night, and Thibodeau liked the way Butler dueled with James.
“A guy like [James], you just try to make him work,” Thibodeau said. “He’s got the ability where you can play him perfectly and he can still make plays. That’s the strength, the mental strength of Jimmy, he doesn’t get dissuaded if he makes a tough play, he comes back the next time and plays him again.”
James shot 11 of 23 from the field, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range.
Anthony Tolliver played just a hair over 19 minutes and only attempted four shots, but he made the most of them. He made all four, including a pair of 3-pointers. His 3-pointer early in the fourth helped the Wolves regain the lead at the start of the quarter.