For the Timberwolves, better opponents bring out better play
Minnesota has bested 3 of the top 4 teams in the West to kick off what was supposed to be a brutal run of 11 games
MINNEAPOLIS — It was only fair to gaze at Minnesota’s upcoming schedule and wonder if the Wolves were going to survive. The team had lost thrice to the likes of Detroit and Houston in a 24-day span. How would it fare against a series of playoff teams?
As it turns out thus far, just fine.
Minnesota has bested New Orleans, Memphis and Sacramento — three of the top-four teams in the Western Conference — in succession to kick off what was supposed to be a brutal run of 11 games.
“We’ve been beating them. We’ve got a good team. We’ve got a really good team,” Wolves guard Austin Rivers said. “We’re trying to make the playoffs. There’s only 30 games left. There’s not a lot of games left, so we’re trying to put the foot on the pedal right before all-star break, then tap in after that.”
That’s exactly the way the Wolves look right now — that the pedal is down. Minnesota is playing well on both ends of the floor and executing with a purpose. This version of the Timberwolves is very difficult to beat.
“We’re a good team. We just gotta come out and play hard, because we got a great group of guys,” Anthony Edwards said. “So if we come out with the same intensity … we’ll probably come out victorious.”
Intensity and playing hard. Those should be givens for NBA teams, yet Minnesota has been up and down in both departments. But in some ways there has been consistency. When the Wolves play a top-tier opponent, they bring their best. When they face what they deem to be an inferior foe, they do not.
Minnesota has far superior talent to the likes of Detroit or Houston. That’s apparent when it goes toe-to-toe with Memphis or New Orleans.
“I don’t ever think it’s about any other teams we play against. It’s always about us every night, respecting our opponents, having the appropriate fear,” Wolves forward Kyle Anderson said. “Taking every matchup seriously as professionals. It’s never about what anybody else does or what the other team is doing. It’s always on us.”
What’s the excuse for a professional sports team not taking every foe seriously?
“(We’ve) got real competitors, but the flip side, we got guys that want to take on that challenge, play the big names, and I always tell people and kids who always ask about the NBA, it’s like getting up for the (Kevin) Durants and the Kawhi Leonards and LeBron Jameses, that’s easy. We’re all here for a reason. We want those matchups,” Anderson said. “No disrespect to those other teams, but it’s the teams that are not as good or their record isn’t so good that you got to be able to bring it. We got a young team. We’re learning that and we got to take every matchup seriously.”
Because when they do, the Wolves have shown they can win at a high rate. It all comes down to consistent effort.
“Yeah, playing hard, just getting after it. Just understanding our effort leads to wins,” Rivers said. “So I think it’s just locking in and playing hard makes the difference.”
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