The Timberwolves Need To Finish Their Fights

There’s an old “dadage” passed down from generation to generation that goes something like “don’t start a fight you can’t finish,” as if everyone grew up like they were in a Rocky movie. It’s sage advice for kids getting bullied at school, but it also applies to one of the most bullied NBA teams of the last 20 years.

To their credit, the Minnesota Timberwolves have been starting many fights this year. Not the Miami Heat-type of scraps that Jimmy Butler started in an attempt to burn bridges with his fourth team, we know all too well about those, but the Wolves have become NBA instigators this season. Thanks largely to Patrick Beverley’s leadership, the Timberwolves are standing up for themselves for the first time in decades.

We’re well aware of Beverley’s showmanship over the years, but his flair has seemed to rub off on his younger compatriots:

Now the Wolves are swaggering around the Western Conference and on the verge of making the playoffs for just the second time since 2004.

It’s been a fun season in Minnesota, although those on the outside seem to see things a bit differently. Some want to paint the Timberwolves’ feel-good season as a villainous team full of showboats and guys who have never won anything. That’s not exactly a fair or accurate portrayal of a young team that has won 42 basketball games this season. They’ve had big wins over the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, and a slew of other contenders. They’ve also beat the hell out of bad teams, including a recent six-game win streak that featured a 42-point beatdown of the Portland Trail Blazers and two wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder by more than 30 points.

As much fun as it is to beat on teams comprised of NBA 2K create-a-players and puff your chest out to the rest of the league, the Wolves got a taste of their own medicine this week with close losses to the Dallas Mavericks and league-leading Phoenix Suns. The Timberwolves huffed, puffed, and got their house blown down as they stepped up in weight class against two premier West teams. If they want to go any farther than the play-in tournament, the Wolves will learn to either not pick a fight with a bigger foe or finish the fight.

There’s no shame in losing a hard-fought game that came down to the wire against Dallas. But things quickly got turned up to 11 in Wednesday night’s loss to Phoenix. The Wolves got out to a hot start, leading 64-51 at halftime and amassing a 15-point lead in the third quarter. KAT turned his instigating eye on Jae Crowder when he dunked over the 6’6″,10-year vet and hit him with a “too small” on the way back down the floor. An instigator in his own right, Crowder got up in KAT’s face, and both got hit with technicals. Towns played to the crowd motioning to his temple, insinuating that he was in Crowder’s head on the court.

Towns started a fight he couldn’t finish with the reigning Western Conference Champs because it turns out they were in his head all along. The Suns outscored the Wolves 74-52 in the second half. Deandre Ayton dominated the post with 35 points and 14 rebounds, and Devin Booker quieted the crowd with 22 points in the second half. However, Towns only scored three of his 15 points in the second half thanks in part to foul trouble, including a flagrant on Landry Shamet that gave the Suns a 95-94 lead. DLo finished with just six points, and Edwards had a quiet 19. Things unraveled like they often have for Minnesota in a winnable game against a good team.

It’s not time to panic. However, if you want to mock other teams and players, and be the young upstart team that’s not afraid of anyone, you have to finish the fight. Otherwise, you just look like a chump. Finch, Towns, and the boys have made adjustments all season long, so there’s hope Minnesota can figure out how to have their cake and eat it too. But for now, the amped-up emotions and playoff atmosphere are a double-edged sword.

This isn’t an “act like you’ve been there before” take. The Minnesota Timberwolves have earned the right to trash talk and try to intimidate other teams this season. God knows it’s a breath of fresh air for Wolves fans. This is the most fun season in Wolves’ history that doesn’t include Kevin Garnett. But to take things to the next level, they must find a new level of emotional consistency. Go crazy, talk trash, mock opposing players that suck, play up to the crowd. But if you step to someone, you better be able to knock them out. Otherwise, the Timberwolves got something coming to them, and that might be another swift playoff exit.

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