Andrew Wiggins had a habit of bringing people to their feet Wednesday night.
With the clock winding down in the third quarter, Wiggins pulled up in front of the Timberwolves bench and unleashed a three-point shot. It fell, causing the bench to erupt in celebration with Karl-Anthony Towns gyrating like a worm in what some might call a dance.
Then when he checked out with 2 minutes, 55 seconds to play, he got a two-handed low-five from coach Ryan Saunders as those who showed up to Target Center rose to their feet.
Wiggins had capped off another ovation-worthy night in a 129-114 victory over the Spurs — 30 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
“It’s always cool to get love,” Wiggins said. “But I’ve just got to stay with it. I can’t think too much of it.”
It’s hard to think too much of anything only 11 games into the season, but the Wolves are 7-4, and they exude the confidence of a team that is coming together. Across from them Wednesday were the Spurs, the model of consistency for the past 20 years. But instead of the Spurs wearing down the rebuilding Wolves, it was the Wolves who were relentless.
After the Spurs made an 11-2 run to take a 70-68 lead in the third quarter, it was all Wolves the rest of the night: Jeff Teague returning from a four-game absence to score 18 points off the bench. Jake Layman making cuts and hitting shots to score 16 on 7-for-9 shooting. Franchise linchpin Towns scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while Wiggins turned in another eye-popping night.
Saunders said after the game, as the coaching staff entered the locker room, that Towns was addressing individual teammates for a job well done. The usually quiet Wiggins was doing the same.
“Wigg is not a big talker, and he’s shouting other guys out,” Saunders said. “This team is connected and it’s just a credit to those guys as individuals and as people.”
Part of that is the buy-in to what Saunders and President Gersson Rosas are trying to accomplish on the court in embracing a heavy volume of three-pointers. On Wednesday, the Wolves hit 11 of 34 while the Spurs hit three of 17. When asked how it felt to be the team hitting more threes for a change, Wiggins smiled and said: “I remember those days.”
Towns elaborated a little more.
“They’ve been so used to us taking midranges and layups and whatever … that we never adjusted to what the game has changed to,” Towns said. “Not only have we now changed to what the modern NBA is, we are excelling at it tremendously well and being pioneers of excellence with it.”
“Pioneers of excellence.” The Wolves might have found their new promotional slogan.
Wiggins has been entering a new frontier in his career over the past few weeks. Even with Teague back, Wiggins still started and was handling the ball for a good portion of the night.
“I feel like I did a lot of good this summer and prepared for a moment like this for the team,” Wiggins said. “We’re short point guards and people carrying the ball, so Coach looks for me. I feel like I prepared for it, so I was ready to step up.”
The only question for the Wolves is: Is all this sustainable? Is Wiggins’ efficiency going to maintain over 82 games? Will this camaraderie hold up when the Wolves hit a skid? For now, the retooling of the organization seems on track.
“If you haven’t watched us much, these guys are fun to be around,” Saunders said.
Added Towns: “We’re just seeing a product that’s just kind of just starting to take shape. We have a lot more time to mold ourselves and mold our system to be even more productive and more lethal.”
If his teammates can keep it up, especially Wiggins, that might be more than just talk.