MINNEAPOLIS – Twenty-two quick thoughts for the 22 first half assists for the Timberwolves in their 107-100 win over the New Orleans Pelicans at the Target Center on Wednesday night.
1. When Robert Covington walked into the Target Center on Wednesday night, he didn’t expect to lead the team with 41 minutes on the court. No one expected that. It would have been an absolutely crazy thought, but it happened.
2. “Not tonight, not the first night,” Covington said after his team debut. “But I mean the way the game was flowing it kind of felt like we was out there for a little bit. It didn’t feel like necessarily like a toll on my body, playing 41 minutes.”
3. That might be something for Covington should get used to. His performance certainly helped this new-look bunch earn their first win together. Covington didn’t light up the stat sheet, with 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting, but his presence and energy on the defensive end certainly was a spark.
4. There was a different energy around this team, and arena, than there had been previously in the week. While Monday was considered the official start of the post-Jimmy Butler era, Wednesday night was when the page actually turned.
5. Well, except for the ‘Who needs Butler?’ chant that echoed throughout the lower bowl of the Target Center with just under two minutes to play in the game as the Wolves were putting the game away.
6. Other than that, it was a true fresh start for this group. Covington and Dario Šarić are both here and ready to contribute. Just because they aren’t singularly as good as Butler is doesn’t mean they aren’t willing and able to help turn this season around for Minnesota.
7. “I think they played really good, on both sides of the floor,” Andrew Wiggins said. “Rob is amazing on defense, he was everywhere. I feel like they fit in perfectly.”
8. Wednesday night was just the second time this season that the Wolves were able to hold an opponent to less than 110 points. It’s safe to say that Covington had an impact on that.
9. It’s early, but one pairing that may be able to do a lot of good for the Wolves is when both Covington and rookie Josh Okogie are on the floor at the same time. That pairing had limited minutes together against the Pelicans, but it was also when the team played with the most energy. It was when they shared the floor during the fourth quarter the Wolves were able to push the lead back to double-digits after seeing a 21-point lead shrink down to as few as two.
10. Once Okogie left the game for good with 7:48 left in regulation it felt as if the team lost a considerable amount of energy for a stretch. At that point the Wolves were up by seven, and roughly three minutes later they were trailing by a pair.
11. It’s not to say that Okogie is a guy that needs to be on the floor for 30-plus minutes a night, but it’s clear that the rookie has a place on the team. The rotation hasn’t likely been finalized with the new guys still getting their feet wet, but when it is, it’s imperative that Okogie is a member of it.
12. After the lead was gone, the Wolves were able to recompose and close out the game on a 13-4 run, thanks in large part to both Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
13. That pairing now officially has the fate of the organization in their hands. The Wolves will go as far as Towns and Wiggins take them. Whether that’s fair or not can be argued, but the contracts that both of them signed up for puts that onus on them. They’re expected to be the ones to step up.
14. It won’t be known for a while, but the fourth quarter – one sequence in particular – could be looked at as a turning point for that pairing.
15. While holding a 102-98 lead with just under two minutes left, Pelicans center Anthony Davis attacked Towns on the left block. He was able to beat him to get to the rim, but Towns got a hand on his shot, hitting it off the glass before he corralled the rebound.
16. “It felt good,” Towns sheepishly said after the game. He then paused, flashed a shy grin and repeated, “it felt good.”
17. The ball then went from Towns to Wiggins up the floor. The former Rookie of the Year was able to get to the rim and finish his dunk through a Nikola Mirotic foul. He hit the free throw, the Wolves led by seven, and the game was all but over.
18. Again, it’s unfair to say right now that this was a turning point for those two, but it could be a moment that’s looked back upon as such.
19. If nothing else, it was the moment that those two realized the Wolves are their team and not anyone else’s. There’s no question that the ball should be in their hands down the stretch moving forward, for better or worse.
20. “I want them to continue to grow,” coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game of his team. “There’s a challenge for them to continue to get better. We talked about one game doesn’t mean you have it all figured out, just come in tomorrow and be hungry to improve and be ready to play. The games keep coming, it’s a challenge every night, particularly in the West. I like the way we play at home, I think we have to continue to build on that.”
21. Thibodeau may have been talking about the team as a whole, but there’s no question where that is aimed. As that pair grows, the Wolves will as well.
22. The Wolves are back in action on Friday night at home against the Portland Trailblazers. Talk to you then.