By: Drew Mahowald
Coming off a terrific road win on Wednesday night at Staples Center over the Los Angeles Clippers, the Minnesota Timberwolves had the opportunity to win their second straight game back at Target Center against the Chicago Bulls Saturday night.
As someone who attended Saturday's game, I have one takeaway that might be different from those of you who watched the game on NBA League Pass or listened on the radio. (Side note: It's kind of absurd that Fox Sports North covered Hockey Day with both its original station and Fox Sports North Plus. I mean, hockey is great and all, but when the Chicago Bulls come to Minneapolis, that should probably be on television.)
The atmosphere at Target Center was absolutely electric Saturday night. I don't care if it's too hot of a take to say it was a playoff atmosphere, because I think it was. The combination of a Saturday night game, a big-market opponent in Chicago and the fact that the game wasn't televised locally all had something to do with the large crowd. Regardless of what the reasons are, though, it was really fun to be a part of.
The attendance in most home games this season has been pretty poor. I don't really blame fans for choosing not to attend because, I mean, 12 seasons without a playoff berth in the NBA is a really long time. However, even though these Wolves are still figuring out how to win, they're still a really fun bunch to watch.
For instance, those of you who didn't attend the game missed a thunderous alley-oop dunk by Zach LaVine. You missed one of the best rookie performances of the season from Karl-Anthony Towns. You missed Andrew Wiggins perform some late-game heroics after overcoming a rough start. You missed Gorgui Dieng quietly put together his best performance of the season.
And, of course, you missed being a part of a terrific Target Center crowd that helped the Wolves go on a 12-0 surge to close out the win.
The Wolves were led by Towns' incredible 26 points (12/19 FG), 17 rebounds and three blocks, a performance that just adds to the already all-time great rookie year he's building. He is now averaging a double-double for the season and how the most games in the ENTIRE NBA this season with 25 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks. I feel pretty good about claiming that Towns is a pretty good basketball player.
Dieng is becoming a solid counterpart to Towns in the Minnesota frontcourt. He doesn't always get things done in the prettiest fashion, but he gets them done. He poured in 24 points (10/13 FG) and grabbed 13 rebounds, bringing he and Towns' combined totals to 50 points (22/32 FG) and 30 rebounds for the evening. I think most people would agree with me and say that's pretty good.
Oh, and the Bulls grabbed 31 rebounds as a team. So, basically, the Bulls outrebounded two guys by one.
Overall, the Wolves outrebounded the Chicago 45-31, helping negate the large advantage the Bulls gained from behind the three-point line (Chicago made 8/20 attempts compared to Minnesota's 1/12).
After a rough start, Wiggins tallied 17 points in the second half on 6/11 shooting to finish with 21 points for the night. He converted two big buckets, a spin layup and a 20-foot pull-up jumper, in the final minute to help seal the win for the Wolves. Over the past three games, Wiggins is averaging 27.3 points per game and shooting just under 57% from the field and 50% from three. Those are acceptable numbers, I think.
Minnesota's past two wins have come behind the strength of late-game runs. In L.A., the Wolves ended the win against the Clippers with a 9-0 run before the 12-0 run at Target Center to beat the Bulls. It's a terrific sign of the development of this team moving forward, and it also shows that interim head coach Sam Mitchell is doing some things right.
With two more home games against New Orleans and Toronto before the All-Star break, the Wolves have a chance to gain a little momentum and, dare I say, have a shot at the eight seed...? No? Maybe? Regardless, there's one thing I do know.
You should all start attending Timberwolves games when you can, because they're fun and a larger attendance really does help the young Pups perform. It happened Saturday against the Bulls, and it would be pretty cool if it happened twice more before the All-Star break.