Wolves Notes: Defense, McDaniels, Gobert, Morris, Ownership

While Defensive Player of the Year favorite Rudy Gobert has earned much of the credit for anchoring a Timberwolves defense that ranked No. 1 in the NBA this season, Minnesota turned in an impressive defensive performance without Gobert available on Monday, limiting the Nuggets to just 80 points on 34.9% shooting and forcing 19 turnovers in a Game 2 blowout.

“We’ve had some really, really good defensive efforts this year, but that has to be right up there with the best of them,” Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch said, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “On the ball, off the ball, the physicality, the execution of the game plan. … Just really locked in on defense.”

Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns led the offensive attack for the Wolves with 27 points apiece, but it was fellow starter Jaden McDaniels who turned in the game’s best plus-minus mark (+26) despite recording as many fouls as points (5) and making just 2-of-7 shots from the floor. McDaniels’ under-the-radar impact didn’t go unnoticed by his head coach.

“He hasn’t connected in the scoring column, but my God, he’s a +26. The other day he was a +23,” Finch said (Twitter link via Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic). “He didn’t have a bucket. He’s got five points in the series and he’s a +50. It’s not about how you score, it’s about how you help your team win.”

Here’s more on the Wolves, who will take a 2-0 lead over the defending champs back home to Minnesota:

  • Gobert, who missed Game 2 due to the birth of his first child, is expected to return to the lineup for Game 3, says McMenamin. That game won’t be played until Friday, giving the teams three days off this week.
  • Finch lauded his team after Monday’s win for its effort on defense, sharing the ball, and generally playing like a team that fans want to root for, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes. Naz Reid suggested those traits are the result of a culture that has improved in recent years. “When I first got here, [the culture] wasn’t the best, it wasn’t perfect,” Reid said. “But obviously we’re all humans, and over that time we gradually got better. We got more cultured. Time to where we kind of became a unit, a team where we trust each other. We’re selling out for each other.”
  • The Timberwolves still need 10 more victories to win a championship, but they look like the NBA’s best team right now, contends Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune. Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports makes a similar case in a column of his own, writing that Minnesota has made the Nuggets look like anything but champions.
  • Wolves reserve point guard Monte Morris exited Game 2 due to a right index finger sprain, the team announced (via Twitter). It’s unclear whether the injury will force him to miss additional time going forward. Morris has played just 40 total minutes across Minnesota’s six playoff games, so his possible absence wouldn’t have a significant impact on the team’s rotation.
  • As the Wolves continue to dominate on the court, the team’s off-the-court ownership battle between Glen Taylor and the Marc Lore/Alex Rodriguez group is headed to arbitration. Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic spoke to a handful of legal experts to get a sense of what to expect from that process. “I see this as an uphill battle for Taylor,” one sports investment banker told Vorkunov,” but something that might make sense for him to have potential asymmetric upside if he can either prevail or find a way to get a settlement or a higher number.”
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