Throughout most of training camp, the Timberwolves have heaped praise on guard Patrick Beverley for the intensity and attitude he brought to the team's collective defensive intensity.
But Beverley was suspended for the team's 124-106 victory over Houston, stemming from a shove he had of Chris Paul in the Western Conference finals. In Beverley's stead, the Wolves took their cue on defense from another source — Josh Okogie.
"Josh Okogie, man. He brings a different type of defensive intensity, defensive mindset to the game," guard Anthony Edwards said. "Just him being locked in, it makes everybody else lock in because we gotta help him. If we do that, then we're a great team all around."
Okogie has always been known for his hustle on the defensive end of the floor, and that showed in the second half Wednesday when after an Edwards dunk, Okogie raced down the floor to block a shot in transition that kept the crowd on its feed after Edwards' dunk.
Okogie finished with two steals and two blocks. "Defensively, the trust lies on Patrick Beverley and J.O., especially," center Karl-Anthony Towns said. "J.O. gained our trust since Day 1. One thing about J.O. even if he messes up the gameplan, he's going to play so hard that he's going to find a way to figure it out and fix it just on pure energy."
Coach Chris Finch also highlighted the defensive effort of another player — Jaden McDaniels, who had four steals and three blocks. "Jaden McDaniels was particularly strong on the glass and it's a point of emphasis for him," Finch said. "He's only listed here at four rebounds but he got his hands on a lot more, kept them alive. I'm proud of the way he got back and got in the fray."
Finch said there were plenty of mistakes on defense Wednesday, but they were mistakes of hustle instead of laziness, mistakes the Wolves could "live with."
"They were all mistakes out of great effort," Finch said. "There were hardly any mistakes made out of laziness or trying to shortcut. We'll live with those and try to clean them up and get better. But we told our guys, just fly to the ball. Make them make one more play. Some nights it's going to probably hurt us, but most nights, I think it'll be able to carry us."
Minority owner Marc Lore attended his first game at Target Center and sat courtside. Lore's partner in purchasing a controlling steak in the Wolves, Alex Rodriguez, was out of town attending to his baseball analyst duties.
At one point Lore came over to greet the media and was standing in the aisle before a fan came down and told him to crouch down so they could see the action.
"They just wanted to see this incredible game," Lore tweeted afterward.