Saunders Leads Wolves To Emotional Win In Debut
After watching Tuesday night’s game between the Timberwolves and Thunder, you can’t help but be impressed with Wolves’ 119-117 road win in Ryan Saunders’ debut as interim head coach.
Of course, the win is impressive regardless, but Saunders was a calm force on the sidelines in an incredible chippy game and was able to lead his team to a win over the third-best team in the Western Conference. Not bad for his second day on the job.
With the win, Saunders becomes the youngest coach (32) to win a game since Dave Cowens led Boston to a 120-118 (oddly similar scores) win over the Nuggets back in 1978-79. Cowens was 30.
The star for the Wolves, besides Saunders, was Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins had a 30-point performance earlier this season in Oklahoma City and he backed it up in this one, finishing with season highs of 40 points and 10 rebounds to go with four assists, a steal and a block. It was Wiggins’ most-complete game in quite some time, and he was efficient as well, shooting 11-for-24 from the field, 2-for-4 from deep and 16-for-18 from the free-throw line.
For the Wolves to win the game was somewhat remarkable considering Karl-Anthony Towns was only able to play 24 minutes due to foul trouble. He was solid in those 24 minutes, finishing with 20 points and nine rebounds.
Jeff Teague was ejected after getting into it with former teammate Dennis Schroeder in the third quarter. Saunders was on the floor trying to cool things down, exactly what you’d expect from a players’ coach such as himself.
Tyus Jones replaced Teague and was a +13 in the game, making winning plays, finishing with 10 points and four assists.
Dario Saric was big off the bench, finishing with 15 points and seven rebounds. Saric was a +22.
The key for the Wolves was not letting anyone but OKC’s Big 3 get hot. Paul George, Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams combined for 72 of the team’s 117 points, but after that, everyone else was pretty average and inefficient. The team practically dared Schroeder to shoot, and it paid off as he finished with nine points, shooting just 3-for-8 from the field.
It was a win that improved the Wolves to 20-21 overall, but more than anything, it was a win that showed teamwork, leadership and support.
Congrats to Saunders for his first career win. We have a feeling there is plenty more to come.