The Timberwolves’ losing streak was extended to five games with a resounding 123-106 loss at home to the Cavaliers on Friday night.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Players move from burst loss to Cavaliers
Cleveland built a double-digit lead early on and never trailed, leading up to 33 points. Minnesota fell to 0-5 in December as Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards struggled to score while D’Angelo Russell remained on the sidelines with pain in his right ankle.
Jarred Vanderbilt: B-
9 points (3-6 FG, 1-1 3P, 2-3 FT), 8 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists
Vanderbilt gave solid energy and effort as usual, including a smooth left-handed block on Darius Garland in the first trimester.
He challenges the shots at the edge, hits the glass hard and tries to finish by contact. Vanderbilt recorded nine points, eight rebounds and three steals in 30 minutes, but showed plenty of room for improvement in defense as the Cleveland big men had a day in the field.
Lauri Markkanen and Evan Mobley seemed comfortable attacking Vanderbilt inside and around the perimeter. Markkanen led the way with 15 points in the first half on a perfect 4v4 on 3-point attempts, while Mobley had several lay-ups in the paint.
The Timberwolves’ home defense was poor overall, allowing 62 points in the paint, and Vanderbilt’s lack of stature was evident as he couldn’t compete with Cleveland’s oversized frontcourt.
Karl-Anthony Towns: C
21 points (8-19 FG, 0-7 3P, 5-6 FT), 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists, 5 turnovers
Towns was never able to find a shooting rhythm from the perimeter and was even worse on the defensive end.
The Cavaliers continuously had easy looks around the rim in the first quarter, parting Towns in the pick and roll and exiting in transition. Towns has never been a dominant rim protector for the Timberwolves and that was amplified on Friday as Jarrett Allen and others passed him and outcompeted him.
Since returning from a bruised tailbone injury on Monday, Towns has led the team in scoring three straight games while shooting 48.1 percent from the field. He finished with just 21 points on a 0v7 3-point shot in the blowout loss. Cities can be one of the best big men in the NBA at times, but there are also a lot of free nights and that was the case against Cleveland. His slow start was one of the main reasons the Cavaliers took a 20-4 lead.
Anthony Edwards: C-
13 points (6-17 FG, 1-8 3P, 0-0 FT), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 3 turnovers
The second-year goaltender was almost as bad beyond the arc, dropping 1 for 8 from the 3-point line in 33 minutes.
Edwards was defended by Isaac Okoro for most of the game, who did a great job challenging the shots jumped and generally making things difficult. Okoro’s impressive length and strength seemed to bother Edwards, who shot 4 for 12 from the field and 1 for 5 to 3 points in the first half as Cleveland took a 21 point lead into the break.
Notably, Edwards did not attempt a single free throw in the game.
We’ve seen a lot of games like this from the former No.1 pick as he continues to grow as a player and move maker. With playmaker Russell missing his third straight game, Edwards had the opportunity to show off his playmaking skills, but failed to do so.
He totaled 13 points, four rebounds and two assists in a less than inspiring performance. One thing Edwards has proven since being drafted is that he won’t let a bad night of filming have a lasting effect, which is a good trait to have.
The Timberwolves will be looking to break a five-game losing streak as they hit the road for a pair of Division games.
Chris Finch’s side will face the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday before facing the Nuggets on Wednesday night. Minnesota fell to 11-15 with the loss and is now tied for 9th in the Western Conference.
Of course, it’s not going to be easier as the Timberwolves are set to face five straight teams in last season’s playoffs over the next two weeks.