This Timberwolves Team Feels… Different

Photo: Jeffrey Becker – USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves played their first preseason game of the 2021-22 season on Monday vs the New Orleans Pelicans. Normally, that wouldn’t be news or blog worthy. But there was a much different feel inside of Target Center, thanks to a Wolves team full of energy and effort, especially on the defensive side of the floor.

Yes, you read that right. The T-Wolves, who played Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards for starter minutes through the entire first half, executed with extreme levels of defensive intensity, tenacity and focus on Monday night in a meaningless preseason game.

That defensive effort made for a high-flying, fast-paced offense that completely dominated an overwhelmed Pelicans squad. When the starters were pulled at halftime, Minnesota held a 65-45 lead. They forced 14 New Orleans turnovers and blocked 5 of their shots, in those first two quarters alone.

Talent isn’t the question

If not newsworthy, what happened at Target Center on Monday is at least a development worth keeping our eyes on. Anthony Edwards was especially disruptive on the defensive side of the floor, which has fans especially aroused on his development.

Sure, New Orleans was playing without Zion Williamson and Jonas Valanciunas but those absences are rather irrelevant to this conversation. There was a different energy in Target Center last night, especially in defensive tenacity, and there wasn’t more than a couple thousand fans in attendance.

Nobody doubts that the Minnesota Timberwolves have enough talent to be playoff contenders. It’s always been a question of their drive to win and willingness to lock down defensively, when needed. Karl-Anthony Towns and the many teammates/coaches, who have been around him during his first 5 years in this league, like to talk about, but not play defense.

Different D-Lo

That wasn’t the case on Monday. Even after the starters left the game, nobody disengaged. Patrick Beverley, D’Angelo Russell and others were engaged in the game from the bench and leading the team hype-train until the end.

There’s been some D’Angelo Russell hype leaking out of Mayo Clinic Square during Wolves training camp and that certainly made its way to Target Center vs the Pels. Russell was tossing dimes all over the floor and finished with 19 points for himself… in the first half.

He looked the best that I’ve personally seen him. Many others, who have watched D-Lo much more often, are saying the same things. Patrick Beverly certainly believes. Hopefully, we really are sleeping on this dude and thus, sleeping on this team.

Consistency Check

The Minnesota Timberwolves will spend the rest of their preseason on the road. Friday, they’ll be in Denver vs the Nuggets. Then, they’ll hop on a quick flight further West to LA, where they’ll play the Clippers on Monday. Their final exhibition matchup will be in Brooklyn next Thursday vs the Nets and the regular season will tip Wednesday, October 30 vs the Houston Rockets.

Before we get too excited, let’s see if the Wolves can bring the same type of energy we saw vs New Orleans, for the rest of the preseason. We should probably even wait until regular season games are being played… though I’m not sure my Wolves or Wild hype levels can wait that long.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan