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Timberwolves display their depth in win over Oklahoma City

Down 5 rotation players, Minnesota managed to end 3-game skid

Minnesota Timberwolves center Naz Reid (11) drives to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) on Dec. 16, 2022, in Oklahoma City.
Minnesota Timberwolves center Naz Reid (11) drives to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) on Dec. 16, 2022, in Oklahoma City.
Alonzo Adams / USA Today Sports
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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Naz Reid viewed Friday’s game in Oklahoma City as one of those “must-win” games teams face throughout the season. Which was quite the proclamation given who the Wolves were without.

Minnesota was sans Rudy Gobert, D’Angelo Russell, Taurean Prince, Karl-Anthony Towns and Jordan McLaughlin — five rotation players. To expect or require victory on such a night seems a bit foolish.

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Yet that’s exactly what the Timberwolves pulled out. Minnesota managed a 112-110 victory over the Thunder to snap a three-game losing skid.

“Push, push, push. We all felt like this was a must win for us. We finished the road trip (2-3) and felt like we could’ve did a lot better,” Reid said. “But finished this one the right way, and we’ve got to bring it home and do the same thing, if not better.”

Kyle Anderson told Reid at Friday’s shootaround that this could be the contest that starts a big run for Minnesota.

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“Once he said that, I felt the same thing and it had a domino effect,” Reid said. “Once one person plays really hard and good and does what they’re supposed to, everybody just follows suit.”

It was a cohesive effort from Minnesota on Friday. Anthony Edwards was the head of the snake. The team’s best player was smart and composed throughout, finishing with 19 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds while serving as the team’s de facto floor general with the Wolves’ two primary point guards out with injury.

Even with all the absences, Minnesota still possessed a major size advantage over Oklahoma City — who currently doesn’t play either a center nor a power forward in its rotation. Reid took advantage of that by dropping 28 points to go with nine rebounds.

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Austin Rivers (25) shoots as Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey (3) defends on Dec. 16, 2022, in Oklahoma City.
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Austin Rivers (25) shoots as Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey (3) defends on Dec. 16, 2022, in Oklahoma City.
Alonzo Adams / USA Today Sports

Austin Rivers scored 20 points on the strength of four triples — the last of which came with 11 seconds to play to stretch the Wolves’ tenuous lead to four and essentially ice the contest. Everyone had a key part to play, and everyone delivered.

“This team is deep, like literally, this team is deep,” Reid said. “One through 15 could really work out and do what they do. Anybody at any moment in any game or any day can lead us to a big game W. This team is deep.”

It was resilient Friday, too.

The Timberwolves largely dominated the first half, building a 13-point halftime advantage on their 2021-22 brand of basketball — forcing turnovers defensively and turning those giveaways into points on the other end.

Minnesota led by eight with a minute to play in the third frame, but trailed heading into the fourth quarter after allowing Oklahoma City to go on an 11-0 run over the final 50 seconds of the third.

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But Edwards and company turned the tide back in their favor in the fourth quarter and made just enough plays down the stretch. While sometimes down, the Wolves were never deterred.

“I thought that was the moment of the game. I thought that was where we really won the game. We didn’t get down in that moment and time. We made some foolish plays down the stretch there, lost our composure a little bit,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “We regrouped, got back at it, made a couple big shots and away we went. We matched them punch for punch a little bit, so we were able to get ahead and then close it out. Yeah, a lot of calls went against us tonight, just a lot of things went against us tonight, and they fought through it all.”

Which is something for a short-handed group to accomplish. It was reminiscent of a couple of the wins Minnesota pulled out last season when its roster was ravaged by COVID-19. Coming out of that stretch, the Wolves were a much better team. There is perhaps a hope this period of time can have a similar effect on what had been a struggling team.

“I feel like we’ve got to continue to do the right things and play the right way, adjust to the scouts and things like that,” Reid said. “It’s not easy, but I feel like it’s something we could definitely move forward towards.”

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This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

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