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3 Takeaways From Wolves' Win Over Clippers
The Wolves took down the Clippers 130-120 on Monday night at Target Center, snapping a four-game losing streak.
There were plenty of storylines. These are the three-most intriguing. Maybe not to you, I guess. But to me and I'm the one writing this, so I get to make those decisions.
Welcome Back, Derrick Rose
After missing six of the last seven games, Derrick Rose played and played extremely well. In 24 minutes off the bench, Rose finished with 22 points and six assists, shooting 9-for-18 from the field.
Minnesota’s offense is so much better with Rose, a player who can create his shot, than when its without him – especially with all the injuries the team has endured. Plus, the Wolves kind of really, really needed a win.
“It felt good,” Rose said after the game. “But I was just trying to read the situation, take my time. Be patient while I was out there.”
Rose was hitting shots, and I’ve known we’ve said this all season, that were vintage D-Rose. Pull up jumpers, reverse layups. Monday night's performance had it all.
If the Wolves, now 26-30 and four games back from a playoff spot, want to make the playoffs, they’ll need a healthy Rose for the final 26 games.
Julian Andrews had an instant analysis of Rose’s game. You can read that here.
Starting (And Super) Dario
Timberwolves interim head coach Ryan Saunders inserted Dario Saric into the starting lineup, something that we thought might have been coming at some point. That’s not a knock on Taj Gibson at all. But with Saric’s ability to stretch the floor, he’s a good fit next to Karl-Anthony Towns in a lineup. Plus, you have the fact that Gibson is an absolute professional and he doesn’t care if he’s starting or coming off the bench, as long as he’s helping the team.
It was a slow start for Saric. He missed a wide-open layup and had two very quick fouls. But he was great the rest of the game, finishing with 19 points and eight rebounds, shooting 7-for-11 from the field and 4-for-5 from the 3-point line. In Philadelphia, Saric was at his best when playing off of Joel Embiid. Hopefully we can see more of this between Towns and Saric.
As for Gibson, he played 21 minutes off the bench and finished with 14 points, shooting a perfect 5-for-5 form the field and 4-for-4 from the free-throw line. Pros gonna be pros.
“It’s really not a big deal,” Gibson said. “I’ve come off the bench my whole career, I’ve started. I know how to maneuver and play off the bench. It’s no pressure. I’m just doing whatever it takes to help my team win games.”
Saunders is quite pleased to have a guy like Gibson on his team. Some players would have slighted the young coach for the move. Not Gibson.
“I can’t say enough about him,” Saunders said. “When I brought him the idea, it was actually yesterday, he was all for it. It just shows his professionalism, the fact that he has 14 points off the bench playing both the four and the five. You can’t say enough about him.”
Another New Starter . . .
Andrew Wiggins (illness) was held out of the game. Starting in his place was veteran Luol Deng.
It was Deng’s first start since the first game of last season with the Lakers.
Talk about getting throw into the fire. Deng played 37 minutes and 50 seconds (more than anyone in the game) and finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. He was a team-best +28 in the game.
“I didn’t see that coming two weeks ago. Lou stays ready,” Saunders said after the game. “I kept asking him, ‘Are you OK?’… He was the guy who was doing a pretty good job on keeping up with some of their catch-and-shoot guys. He’s smart. Him not coming off the body was a big thing for us, especially when you get a little lead, three-point shooters are going to get you back in the game if they’re coming back. So not only what he did offensively, but defensively he was really good.”
The NBA season is a long one, full of opportunity for many players. And we’ve seen under Saunders that while sometimes it’s out of necessity, he isn’t afraid to trust players with bigger roles and switch things up if need be.
The Wolves have just one game left before the All-Star game, and that will be on Wednesday at Target Center against James Harden and the Houston Rockets. You can get tickets here.