There isn't going to be any of that James Harden-style ignoring of COVID-19 protocols with the Timberwolves, not if basketball boss Gersson Rosas and coach Ryan Saunders can prevent it.
Wednesday night's season opener concluded as an 111-101 win over Detroit at Target Center. It had started with a dramatic example of the seriousness with which the Wolves' decision-makers are taking on the world's vile opponent.
The Wolves' starting lineup did include Malik Beasley, two days after he pleaded guilty to a threat-of-violence felony count from an incident outside his Plymouth home in September.
D'Angelo Russell, a close competitor to Devin Booker as Karl-Anthony Towns' best friend, and the acquisition that got the Wolves out from under Andrew Wiggins in February, wasn't in the starting lineup.
Reason? He was late for Wednesday's virus test, meaning the Wolves did not have the results as promptly as they would prefer. The test turned out negative, but the Wolves' message was, "Be on time.''
As Gene Wilder said about Harvey Korman, after he shot a man for chewing gum in line in "Blazing Saddles" long ago, "Boy, he's strict,'' in this case meaning Rosas, Saunders or both.
The Detroit Pistons were the visitors for the Wolves' 32nd opener, and the talent level for coach Dwane Casey is such Detroit was a 5½-point underdog to a Wolves club projected to be in the West playoffs by team owner Glen Taylor and few others.
The Wolves started off as if they were looking around for Russell to be running the operation, and not Ricky Rubio. They were down 8-0 after 80 seconds and 14-2 into the fourth minute, when No. 1 overall draft choice Anthony Edwards entered the game.
He fit right in with the rest of the Wolves in providing a feast of easy buckets to the Pistons, but Edwards was impressive on offense. The athletic ability was there, obviously, and also an instinct for finding space and the basketball that you didn't expect in the NBA debut of a 19-year-old.
Edwards played 13 minutes in the first half, with 11 points, three assists and two rebounds. The 12 minutes in the second half were not as solid for the rookie.
The Wolves were back to eight down with nine minutes left. And the game swung toward the home team when coach Casey went to Killian Hayes, a 19-year-old point guard from France taken seventh overall in the 2020 draft.
Derrick Rose returned after three minutes, but by then, Hayes had three quick turnovers — two on picked passes by Rubio — and it was 95-95 with three minutes left.
And then Saunders found his finishers: Karl-Anthony Towns, Beasley, Josh Okogie, Russell and Rubio.
A smallish group with Beasley and Okogie as forwards, but if KAT is the beast down the stretch that he was in Game 1, this had the look of a lineup that could prevent the fourth-quarter givebacks that were a staple of last season's misery (19-45).
Of course, that misery changed to a scintilla of optimism when the Wolves won the lottery and were able to take their choice, and went with Edwards.
KAT said postgame that the smattering of witnesses in the arena and TV viewers were seeing the "new physical me.'' Rudy Gobert is next up in Utah on Saturday night, so that will give Towns the chance to battle a heavyweight — and also one who like KAT can shoot.
Towns was about the only Woofie who didn't make you wince shooting a three last season, until Russell came in from Golden State and Beasley from Denver in the Rosas trading bonanza at the February deadline.
It was back-to-back bombs — off passes from KAT — that buried the Pistons. First, Russell left-handed home a 26-footer from up top, and Beasley followed with a 23-footer from the deep left corner. A one-point deficit turned into a 106-101 lead.
Beasley might hear from the NBA disciplinarians on his guilty plea, but until that happens, the Wolves can be certain that their preferred three-point bombardment will continue.
The percentage was bad again Wednesday — 11-for-41 for 26.8% — but the main shooters, Beasley and Russell, were a combined 7-for-20, a tolerable 35%.
Total, Beasley and Russell put up 34 shots. Edwards also took 12 shots. Bashfulness will not be a problem with these three, and maybe, just maybe, we saw a hint of being able to finish.
One more note: Rose, the veteran guard Tom Thibodeau brought to Minnesota to great initial derision in March 2018, is still going. He had 15 points, six assists, and put in a hard night's work ruined when the rookie Killian Hayes became Killin' Us for the Pistons.
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