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NBA Highlights: Wolves 115, Thunder 108: Rudy Gobert to the Rescue

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Rudy Gobert made his long-awaited Minnesota Timberwolves game Wednesday night and wasted no time before making his presence felt against the decentralized Oklahoma City Thunder team that will play the lead in the Victor Wembanyama draws.

As I wrote in the preview, I was expecting Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell to call their new All-Star teammates early and often after Gobert force-fed to 16 points with six shots and 10 free throw attempts. Friday’s preseason finale against the Brooklyn Nets.

Between Towns, Russell and head coach Chris Finch, all three centrals made it clear that they thought the Utah Jazz had underused the three-time Defensive Player of the Year in the preseason. They supported this talk on Wednesday night; Gobert scored six points on five field goals before any of his teammates fired two.

The way Gobert’s powerful ring gravity crashed the Thunder’s defenses created driving lanes for Towns, Anthony Edwards, and Jaden McDaniels; all of which did a great job of moving the ball to force the Oklahoma City defenders into mixed situations. This eased some of the gap concerns that the Wolves had brought up on the starting group’s recent debut.

As a result, Minnesota scored 35 points with 54% shooting on the opening frame, despite shooting only 3/9 from downtown and flipping four times. Towns changing to 5 on Gobert’s first stint served as a boon for this offensive efficiency. He shared the ball brilliantly, had five assists in the first 10:20 of the game and had dominant playmaking skills that he plans to grow this season.

Oklahoma City Thunder - Minnesota Timberwolves

Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Towns continued his strong game early in the second half. The three-time All-Star faced a double team from baseline at each post touch while playing 5; On his first touch, Towns spotted the duo and fired a rocket pass into the opposing slot for a Taurean Prince 3 completing an 11-point, 4/4 shooting quarter for the trusty Wolves veteran roleplayer.

Wolves fans also got a taste of what they came to see: Towns/Gobert chemistry.

Gobert led all scorers with an effective 13 points and 8 rebounds at halftime, while the Wolves were leading 65-52 at the half.

After a short run that extended Minnesota, with strong ball action and a bounce shot, he was 16 behind.

Oklahoma City head coach Mark Daigneault wanted to cut Towns’ influence as a driver. So, he looked into the bench and summoned two-way player Eugene Omoruyi—the 6-foot-6,235-pound forward—to enter the KAT in the perimeter. Omoruyi bothered Towns with his physicality, leaving no room for the Wolves star to make any moves and pass by; When Towns got the ball, he spent five to seven seconds looking for a solution, but tried to do too much on the drive several times.

From then on, ball movement stopped, pick-and-roll (PnR) actions became less frequent, and Minnesota took weak shots while lacking any speed or offensive flow. The Timberwolves didn’t start their offense as early as in the first half, which means less Gobert screens.

“I think that’s probably a really good way of saying it,” Finch told Canis Hoopus post-game. “I think I saw Rudy dragging a little up (towards the basket).

As a result, Edwards’ tough shooting night (4/17 FG) got worse, with Finch’s team knocking down six times after a clean second quarter. These giveaways ignited the Thunder’s pass scrimmage, where Minnesota had minimal resistance despite not breaking the scrimmage window; OKC won the quick break battle 17-10.

At the other end of the field, the Wolves’ perimeter defense collapsed. Thunder star quarterback Shai Gilgeous-Alexander consistently beat perimeter defenders outside of the dribble, forcing Minnesota’s defense to exit rotation, opening their driving lanes and kicking kicks for 3.

Oklahoma City Thunder - Minnesota Timberwolves

Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

To make matters worse for Minnesota, SGA’s event sent Edwards to the bench with four fouls in the middle of a monstrous 26-5 Thunder run. With Edwards off the pitch, the Wolves tried to put Prince, McDaniels, Russell and Kyle Anderson into the dynamic OKC quarterback, but none of them succeeded in slowing him down.

Gilgeous-Alexander played the entire quarter and framed 17 of his team’s 35 points, but undoubtedly unlocked even more points with his defensive push. Not only did Wolves almost single-handedly clear the 16-point lead, he also helped the Thunder build their 87-81 six-point lead before the end of the quarter.

The primary concern after Patrick Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt left the Gobert trade was the lack of players who could turn the game with their energy and physicality; The wolves justified this concern in the third. So, who needs to step up in this department?

“Jaden, Karl, Rudy, Anthony, D’Angelo, Kyle, Jordan, Jaylen, Taurean,” Finch said after the game.

All have the capacity to do so, though not with the same enthusiasm that the two bring.

“They have to do this. Finch, if we want to go somewhere, we have to do it,” he said. “So, it’s about distracting yourself and putting your body on the line.”

The Timberwolves got this one of the three quietest players on the roster.

Jaylen Nowell hit a monster 3 to break an SGA scoring barrage and take a 81-79 lead, before the McDaniels and Gobert responded with an 8-0 Thunder run by putting together their own 6-0 streak to tie things up. last quarter. Gobert gave the exclamation point an incredible defensive play that only a wild HORSE shot could overcome.

The stealth trio carried that energy into fourth, inviting Russell onto the field at 10:23 when Edwards was knocked out after Ant’s fifth foul. They produced a 5-0 streak before starting to score or assist in the team’s next nine points and in turn revived both the momentum and the energy of the home audience. Russell organized things, Nowell and McDaniels made quick, decisive pass readings that opened everything in the rim, and Gobert finished well inside.

Whether it’s breathing confidence on offense with a one-on-one score, holding the ball hot, or shooting down open shots, the Nowell is a powerful weapon that can definitely be relied upon to position itself like him. Wednesday did.

“[His aggression is] It’s going to be really, really, really important. Every team needs an X factor. Jaylen has a lot of games,” Finch CH said post-game. “He can score, he can create his own. He can pass, he can shoot, he can finish, he can create, he can get to the free throw line.”

No matter what is asked of him on offense, it seems he always succeeds. Tonight, Nowell made it with 13 points and a pair of critical second-half dime.

“He’s just a guy about opportunities. He shows who he is every time he gets a chance. Since I’ve met him, there hasn’t been a time he’s had the opportunity and hasn’t taken advantage of it,” Russell told Canis post-game. “I think he’s going to have a great year.”

As for McDaniels, his ability to attack and press the defense with and without the ball played a key role in Game 4; A normally low-use player, he scored 10 of Minnesota’s 28 points in the frame and made several plays to energize a nervous crowd.

Oklahoma City Thunder - Minnesota Timberwolves

Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

“Not a single game was prepared for him. I’m always raising my teammates to dominate the game as it is, to keep the best player and to dominate the game on offense, deviations, rebounds, and the like,” said Russell McDaniels’ performance. “He’s going to have a great career, a great season and he’s just scratching the surface.”

McDaniels finished the game with 19 points, set career highs in free throws (nine) and tries (10), and also added six boards, three tens (all in fourth place) and five stocks, recording team bests with plus and minus (+14) and minutes (36).

As OKC ran, you could feel the fans in the arena starting to get flashbacks into the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs, where Minnesota struggled spectacularly to hold the lead.

Gobert wasn’t part of it, but he did experience it early in his Jazz career. In this way, he learned how to be a calming force when the game gets busy and the walls get closer.

“I think a lot of it just comes with experience and then learning how to win,” Gobert told Canis Hoopus. “In my early years we were trying to figure out how to finish games, maintain the lead and things like that. just mostly just feel the game. [out] And knowing that it’s a running game and when the team runs, you need to calm down a bit.”

Despite the lack of experience in ditching fire with current teammates, that doesn’t mean the philosophy of winning on the other hand will be any different.

“Run something you know, aggressively, you’re pretty comfortable running. You know, take a good shot or put pressure on the defense,” Gobert continued. “And then defensively, it’s the same. Keep communicating, keep settling down, and generally good things happen. I thought we did a pretty good job.”

Oklahoma City Thunder - Minnesota Timberwolves

Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Gobert and Russell proved tonight that their collective presence on the field can spread a calm on the field. It will be extremely important to progress on nights where Towns is not scoring at the levels we all know.

D-Lo played briskly and put the team on offense early, allowing the three-time All-NBA midfielder to make a bigger impact as a qualifier (and later as an inside striker) and hit big shots on the road when needed. 10-point quarter.

Meanwhile, his six-time defensive team picks wrestled over shots from the rim on the other hand made life hell for the Thunder guards and forwards as they tried to attack the teeth of the Wolves’ defense. On offense, Gobert took three offensive rebounds on the last frame – two of them kickbacks – and maintained an effective level of activity as an observer that would allow his new team to win in their first game.

Stifle Tower broke the team record with 23 points on 10/15 shooting, 16 rebounds, and +13 in 34 minutes.

Minnesota struggled with long rebounds and allowed 22 Thunder 16 offensive rebounds that turned into second chances, didn’t take advantage of turnovers as much as OKC did, and despite shooting only 26.3% from 3, they still found a way to win.

While there are significant weaknesses Minnesota can support (gaps, passing defense and corner 3-point defense), the most important takeaway is that a new-looking ball club must overcome some challenges and learn from each other in the process.

It’s a good thing there are no photos in the standings because they wouldn’t be so flattering tonight.

But the Minnesota Timberwolves are starting to understand with real representatives how 1-0 and Rudy Gobert ensured the win. At the end of the day, that’s what matters at this stage of the season.

The Timberwolves are back in action at the Target Center against the 1-0 Utah Jazz, where they’ll face the traded Wolves Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley and Walker Kessler on Friday night and face Rudy Gobert’s former roster. Utah defeated the Denver Nuggets 123-102 in the first game of the season.

You can catch the 19:10 CT clue at Bally Sports North.