Three Observations From The Wolves' Comeback Victory Over Rockets
The Wolves got their most exciting victory of the season on Monday night, coming back from being down 19 in the second quarter to earn a 103-91 victory over the Rockets. Here are three things I noticed from Minnesota’s massive comeback:
Big KAT’s Revenge
The Wolves’ five games against the Rockets in last season’s playoffs were not Karl-Anthony Towns’ best—he averaged just 15.2 points per game. You could tell from the first few minutes of Monday’s game that Towns was out to prove a point.
This was, for the most part, a good thing. Towns was aggressive in going right at Clint Capela. The Rockets love to try to get in Towns’ head by switching smaller players on to him, making him feel like he has to take advantage of the mismatch and force up a shot. He didn’t take the bait tonight. Capela is a good defender, but he can’t guard Towns one-on-one in the post (not many can). Towns got a few early buckets on Capela and kept going straight at him the entire game.
KAT with the throwdown to get the game going. pic.twitter.com/H1uVu5VfSt
— Kyle Ratke (@Kyle_Ratke) December 4, 2018
The downside is that Towns did seem like he was forcing things a little bit early on—understandable eager to prove a point. This got him into foul trouble and he sat much of the second quarter where the Rockets jumped out to a 19-point lead. However, when he returned in the third quarter, Towns had settled down and started making the right plays and letting the game come to him, with great success.
Towns finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block. His steady presence inside gave the Wolves a go-to option down the stretch and you could see his teammates looking to get him the ball down low. That’s a sight for sore eyes.
Covington’s Defensive Wizardry
A lot has been made of Covington’s defensive presence, and rightly so. But watching Covington play defense is a very different experience than watching other people play defense.
You know those players that you always keep an eye on when they’re on the court unless the do something crazy? Typically those players are great dunkers or insane shooters, but Covington is one of those guys on defense. He makes defense just as impressive as massive dunks.
The way Covington plays defense isn’t just about him shutting down his man, it’s about him making plays all over the court. In the second half of Monday’s game, Covington had a few plays that were simply ridiculous.
With about nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, Covington came over from the weak side to help as Towns and Derrick Rose corralled Chris Paul and simply muscled a Capela dunk attempt out of the air. How he did it without fouling is beyond me, but he did, resulting in a jump ball which he also somehow won.
BOB RIPPED THAT DUNK ATTEMPT OUTTA MID AIR pic.twitter.com/fYSoOuknet
— Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) December 4, 2018
Covington finished Monday night with 13 points, six rebounds, two steals, two blocks and a whole lot of new fans.
It’s a hard thing to quantify, but the Wolves mindset is the biggest takeaway from Monday’s name.
You don’t come back from 19 down in the second quarter unless you feel like you deserve to win and have a legitimate chance. Coming back from that kind of deficit is done one possession at a time, one foot in front of the other.
Everyone has had those days where you just feel like things aren’t going your way. That’s what the Wolves looked like in the first half—they weren’t getting calls, their shots weren’t falling and the Rockets were embarrassing them on their home floor. But the Wolves didn’t get down, they got mad and they got focused.
“We came out in the second half, came in here and made it clear that we’ve got to change things. We’ve got to be the team that wants it more and I think everyone in the building saw that. We came out with an edge to us and a fire to us to get back in the game,” said Towns after the game. “The one thing I’m real proud of us is that not only did we come in here and talk about it, we came and did it. We came out, did what we said we were going to do and not only did we do that, but when we got back in the game we didn’t let our foot off the gas, we kept going.”
It’s so hard to stay focused and ready when things aren’t going your way—it’s very easy to get frustrated. What helps is that this team’s support for one another is entirely genuine. The hard times didn’t drive them apart but brought them together.
“We’ve got so much love for each other,” said Towns. “We just kept trying to tell each other, we’re going to grind ourselves back into this game and when we did it, we’re just coming back to the huddles every single time about don’t let them score, don’t let anyone score. If they’re going to make a bucket, make them have to hit something that’s tremendously hard. We did a great job in those minutes making everything very difficult. Realizing the mistakes we made through the game and capitalizing on them in the fourth.”
In the standings this is just one game, but this type of effort in a game in December says something great about the Wolves. What a night.