Unfortunately for the Wolves, the man formerly known as General Soreness had plenty of support on his side of the trenches Friday night, including a couple of troops armed with a powerful whistle.
Let’s break it all down…
If you missed tonight’s game down in Miami, you missed quite possibly the best performance of the season from the 22-year old Jarred Vanderbilt, who was hands down the Canis Hoopus “Man of the Match.” Vando, known around these parts simply as “V8,” was unconscious defensively against the Heat, snagging a career-high five steals in the first half.
Unfortunately for Vanderbilt, he failed to secure another steal in the second half, but he did finish with a fairly incredible stat line: 8 points, 11 rebounds, 5 steals, 2 blocks, and 1 assist. There have been many fun storylines to follow since Chris Finch took over for Ryan Saunders a few months ago, but the reemergence of both Josh Okogie and Jared Vanderbilt as potential long-term fixtures is definitely near the top. V8, who just celebrated his 22nd birthday last month, will be a restricted free agent this summer, and this latest stretch of play should really make re-signing him a priority later this summer (at the right price, of course).
Outside of V8, there wasn’t a ton of truly positives to take away from this one. Karl-Anthony Towns did finish with 27 points on 50% shooting, and Anthony Edwards strung together another 20+ point performance (25 to be exact) on 10-of-19 shooting. I also thought both D’Angelo Russell and Ricky Rubio — the team’s starting back court tonight — played fairly well together, with both guys connecting on 6-of-12 for the field for a combined 33 points (they also combined for 13 assists).
The problem for Minnesota was that they went up against a brutal whistle Friday night, which resulted in three combined technical fouls for the Russell/Rubio pairing, ultimately sending D’Angelo to the showers early in the third quarter (more on that in a second).
In classic Heat style, it was a rugged and physical contest Friday night down in South Beach, which resulted in a plethora of missed calls and ultimately a handful of technical fouls. While the officiating itself wasn’t the reason that Minnesota lost to Miami, it sure didn’t help to have one guy after another collect a “T,” especially D’Angelo Russell who got his second one for — I think — simply yelling “And-1” after an Anthony Edwards layup (I’ll have to go back and re-watch that sequence, but it seemed like an extremely sensitive whistle when it happened). As mentioned earlier, Ricky Rubio also got himself teed up, which is probably the clearest of all signs that something was definitely “off” with the refereeing Friday night.
But again, the Wolves didn’t lose this game solely because of a really bad whistle. Minnesota’s bench, which looked vastly different with both D’Angelo Russell and Ricky Rubio in the starting lineup, only managed to contribute 19 total points, compared to 57 for the Heat reserves. Juancho Hernangomez, who had been playing noticeably better entering the evening, notched a putrid 8 points on 3-of-11 shooting, including 1-of-5 from the free throw line. With important contributors like Jaden McDaniels (personal reasons) and Malik Beasley (hamstring) both sidelined on Friday, the Wolves were already fairly depleted in terms of depth, but having five bench guys fail to score even 20 combined points is usually a bad sign for a team’s overall outcome.
Last but not least, this latest duel between General Soreness and Karl-Anthony Towns didn’t end without a few fireworks, most notably this “interesting” exchange late in the fourth quarter:
I’ll let you piece together the transcript, but let’s just say that both Towns and Butler showed great respect for the league’s COVID-19 protocols by NOT swapping jerseys after the game.