Postgame | Flip Saunders
Wolves Defeat Blazers 90-82
Wolves coach Flip Saunders wants his players — especially some of the younger guys — to view these recent struggles as an opportunity.
It’s an opportunity for some of the younger players to play more minutes than originally expected, an opportunity for those same players to experience the grind of a season, and, most importantly, an opportunity for the young team to grow.
“As I've told many of the guys sometimes these opportunities aren't thrown out there,” Saunders said before the game. “It's a unique situation so they have to do what they can to take advantage of a situation like this.”
Minnesota took full advantage of that situation on Wednesday night at Target Center en route to a 90-82 win over the Portland Trail Blazers in arguably the squad’s most impressive performance of the season.
“I thought the baby Wolves grew up a little bit tonight,” Saunders said.
Andrew Wiggins, in particular.
Postgame | Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins followed up an outstanding performance from two nights ago with a 23-point, 10-rebound effort, including a few huge plays down the stretch when it seemed like no one else wanted the ball, to lead the Wolves to victory. That also marked the first double-double of his young career.
“Wiggins looked like the No. 1 pick tonight,” Saunders said after the game. “He got his shots, took things over, took big shots late, had 10 rebounds, got on the floor for a couple loose balls, had a couple steals … and he knew we were going to him. He came and he delivered.”
Wiggins said he thought he grew up throughout the contest and noted afterwards that it “felt like my best game tonight.”
“I feel good,” he said, adding that he feels extremely comfortable late in games. “I feel a lot better and every game, every second on the floor I’m learning a lot.”
Minnesota stretched its lead to 20 points in the second half and looked poise to run away with the game. It’s still a young team, though, and that youth shined late as it got dicey down the stretch as Portland came roaring back.
Wiggins, however, would let his team lose on this night. He came up huge in the clutch to stave off what would have been a demoralizing comeback.
“We went to him, he knew we were going to him, and he tried to make something happen there for us,” Saunders said.
“I wanted [the ball in my hands],” Wiggins added. “I didn’t wanted to lose.”
Postgame | Corey Brewer
Corey Brewer chipped in 19 points, Thaddeus Young netted 13 points, Zach LaVine recorded 10 points, and Shabazz Muhammad poured in 11 points.
Brewer, Saunders said, provided the Wolves with the vocal leadership needed in the game. He also was a perfect 10-for-10 from the charity stripe to help close out the win.
Muhammad — as he has over the last few weeks — gave the Wolves a much-needed spark off the bench. Saunders has raved about Muhammad’s effort in that span and it’s clear Muhammad is becoming a key part of the rotation.
Saunders said he was also thoroughly impressed with his squad’s defensive performance on a night where it held LaMarcus Aldridge to a mere 10 points on 3-for-14 shooting. That effort came after it flustered a potent Golden State Warriors earlier this week.
“It’s much improved recently,” he said. “In the last two games against two of the best offensive teams in the league we’ve come out and we’ve played hard and we’ve challenged.”
Ricky Rubio, who is out until at least January with a significant ankle sprain, fist pumped with 48.6 seconds remaining as Gorgui Dieng secured a rebound before getting fouled. That first pump said all that needed to be said — this was clearly a big win for the Wolves.
“We needed this win,” Brewer said. “It’s a big win for us moving forward and we’ve … got to use it as a stepping stone.”
LEADER OF THE PACK
It’s an obvious choice. Andrew Wiggins had 23 points and 10 rebounds in the win over the Trail Blazers. He also came up huge down the stretch with clutch shot after clutch shots. Wiggins was aggressive throughout the game and got to the free throw line 10 times while playing outstanding on the other end of the floor. Saunders said after the game that Wiggins actually looked like the No. 1 pick on Wednesday night. There are no arguments here.
Muhammad’s Big Jam
HIGHLIGHT OF THE GAME
Shabazz Muhammad threw down a nasty one-handed slam over Chris Kaman that brought the Target Center crowd to its feet. Muhammad took a feed on the fastbreak and rose up with little regard for his personal safety before finishing off the thunderous slam.
There aren’t really enough superlatives to describe the dunk … so here’s the actual video.
-- Minnesota entered the matchup with the Portland Trial Blazers as 10.5-point underdogs and it actually held a 20-16 lead at the first quarter. Shabazz Muhammad led the team with 6 points off the bench.
-- Andrew Wiggins played 23 of 24 possible minutes in the first half and didn’t seem to show signs of fatigue. He had a complete line of 12 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists in that span.
-- Minnesota led by as many as 13 points in the first 24 minutes of play thanks to a strong effort from Andrew Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad. That duo combined for 23 points.
-- LaMarcus Aldridge entered the night averaging 22.3 points per game and the Wolves held the big man scoreless in the first half. Jeff Adrien marked up on him for most of the half after Gorgui Dieng picked up 2 quick fouls. You know what they say about Jeff Adrien …
-- Minnesota led by as many as 20 points on the night in a game where its suffocating defense forced 20 turnovers.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Wolves after this matchup with the Trail Blazers. They’ll play host to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday at Target Center. Oklahoma City will have both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook available— good news for fans, not so great news for Minnesota.