Timberwolves coach Chris Finch made one thing clear at his pre-Minnesota press conference in Utah on Thursday: “We’re here to win. We are here to compete. ”
This opinion arose in spite of everything that suggested that it was impossible. The Wolves had seven players on the health and safety protocols, including four in the starting lineup – Anthony Edwards, Patrick Beverly, Jarred Vanderbilt and Karl-Anthony Towns, the latter of whom entered the protocols shortly before Thursday’s game.
As such, Minnesota remained in short supply on the road and faced a full-fledged Utah team that is one of the best in the Western Conference. And all this for the final mini-swing game before Wolves get three weekends over the holidays.
They were the best for a full performance.
But that’s not what they put on.
Yes, Minnesota dropped from 128-116 to Utah. But the Wolves went down, swinging in every way Finch suggested before the game.
“Everyone came to play, we fought hard and made a lot of really good shots. Some got in and some didn’t. We fought back whenever we fell. Very pleased with the effort, ”Finch said. “This is a really good team. They hit hard at the site and we missed some. The timely concessions hurt us a bit, but overall I am very, very happy with the way the guys fought and played. ”
Minnesota played hard, played with speed, and pounded at night when it just didn’t have horses to hang out with one of the best in the West as COVID-19 continues to ravage its squad.
Finch didn’t make excuses for his team’s play, and the Wolves (15-17) didn’t play like a losing team on Thursday, even if they competed as underdogs with 15 points against Jazz’s 22-9. …
“I haven’t seen guys hesitate to be ready to play with confidence in each other,” said Wolves player Jake Layman. “The guys know we have a lot of great players, a lot of great talent in our dressing room, no matter who is playing. I think it showed up tonight. I think our feelings after tonight are (ticked) because we know we could come out with this victory tonight. ”
Lyman kicked off for the first time this season and was one of the few guys who didn’t usually rotate to see the extended action. The wolves were short, but only lost to one.
They weren’t good defensively, although Finch said Minnesota implemented their defensive schemes to the best of their ability. Quite frankly, without Townes, Beverly, Vanderbilt and Josh Okogi, the Wolves are short on defenders at the moment.
They parried it by striking at high speed. On Thursday, the Wolves fired 38 percent from depth. All five players scored double-digit numbers, Jaylen Nowell added 10 points from the bench.
Jaden McDaniels has 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists as the young flank has shown what he can do when attacked more aggressively. Malik Beasley continued his recent shooting resurgence, burying seven triplets on his way to a 33-point result. D’Angelo Russell has 19 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds, shooting in the second half after a rough start.
Perhaps Minnesota can bring Anthony Edwards and Prince Taurus back to their home game on Monday against New York, at the very least. Possible changes to the NBA protocols could help others get back to action.
But those who represented Minnesota in the audience on Thursday don’t have much to hang their heads about.
“The guys definitely understood the mission of this game,” Leiman said. “I didn’t win, but I have something to be proud of”.