What was this feeling, with three-pointers falling, a point guard making dynamic plays and a crowd that was energized on its feet multiple times?
Why does it feel so foreign, and who are these guys anyway?
A different team took the floor for the Timberwolves at a sold-out Target Center on Saturday night vs. the Clippers in a stunning 142-115 victory than the one in Wednesday’s listless loss to Atlanta. That’s both literally and figuratively.
That was a group that had lost 13 in a row and seemingly forgotten how to win. Three trades and eight new players later, there was a totally different vibe for a franchise in need of a change.
For a night it looked like all the pieces fit — and the biggest one didn’t even play.
“It’s only one game. There’s going to be growing pains, there’s going to be nights that you don’t make 26 threes and you don’t have 39 assists,” coach Ryan Saunders said. “I understand that. But I also like that you can kind of see glimpses … it makes you positive about what could be to come.”
Malik Beasley lit nets on fire. James Johnson provided a healthy dollop of defense and had an efficient offensive night while holdover Jordan McLaughlin, given the keys at point guard, was a dynamic playmaker off the dribble for a team that won for the first time since Jan. 9, against a championship contender with its big guns playing while D’Angelo Russell sat out because of a right quad contusion.
“We’ve got a great group of guys,” Beasley said. “[President] Gersson [Rosas] said it’s about patience, getting the right guys and building a chemistry together — and we did that in one day.”
The Wolves and the crowd couldn’t contain themselves. Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists and plenty of celebrations on the bench. Beasley finished with 23 points (with seven threes), Johnson with 15 while McLaughlin had 24 and 11 assists, and the Wolves hit a number of superlatives.
They scored 81 points in the first half, the most in a half in franchise history. Beasley had the most points (20) in one half of any Wolves player in his first game. The Wolves had their most assists in a game this season (39), and their nine first-quarter threes were a team record for a quarter.
Their 26 threes were one short of tying the NBA record. The Wolves also were two points shy of tying the team single-game scoring record.
The Wolves got off to a blistering start, scoring 40 in the first quarter against one of the best defensive teams in the league. They were ahead by 22 at halftime and the game was never in doubt.
Saunders started a lineup that featured Josh Okogie, Juancho Hernangomez, Towns, McLaughlin and Beasley.
Aside from Russell, Beasley might be the poster child for how the Wolves want to play going forward. He wasn’t afraid to hoist it from deep every chance he got — and he actually hit some (seven of 13).
After watching this Wolves team shoot threes at one of the worst percentages in the league, Beasley was a sight for sore eyes.
“I was in the zone,” he said. “I couldn’t see anybody or hear anybody, and it just felt good.”
The Wolves were able to coast through the second half, unlike the collapse they suffered at the hands of the Kings last week. That debacle wasn’t all that long ago, except it felt like it was.
“We showed ourselves tonight,” Towns said. “We can’t expect anything less from each other on a nightly basis. This has to be the standard.”