Timberwolves respond to first losing skid in resounding fashion in win over Rockets

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Minnesota hit its first bump in the road this week. Every NBA team will incur those — it’s the nature of an 82-game season in which the games come fast and furious. No team can always be at its best.

But these are the moments Timberwolves guard Mike Conley noted in training camp define championship-caliber teams. One trait all great squads have in common, he said, is resiliency.

How well do you bounce back when the chips are down?

This week — in which the Wolves lost consecutive games for the first time all season after seemingly losing their edge — marked the first adversity the current top team in the Western Conference had stumbled upon all season.

“It’s the ability to go on a two- or three-game losing streak, snap out of it and have team meetings, talk to each other. The media is tackling you and trying to split you apart, and you band together and have moments in the season that become those signature moments that you can look back at and say, ‘Hey, this is when they became who they were.’ And then, boom, it pops,” Conley said in October. “I think a lot of teams go through that stage and they figure it out. We’re a team that I think we check some of those boxes — we’ve got the talent, we’ve got the bodies, we’ve got the depth — but can we withstand adversity? Can we get through it when things go rough?”

Friday’s answer was a resounding “Yes.” Minnesota responded to its first skid in impressive fashion, imposing its well against a stout Rockets team en route to a 122-95 victory in Houston.

Minnesota controlled the game from the outset and seemingly never let loose of its grasp. The Wolves compiled 60 points in the paint, outrebounded Houston 51-39 and held the Rockets to just 40% shooting while forcing 15 turnovers.

The Wolves played big. They played their brand of basketball and they imposed their will. Friday’s team looked much closer to the one that dominated the first two months of the season than the one even Wolves coach Chris Finch deemed “average” over the last few weeks.

If Wednesday’s dismantling at the hands of New Orleans was a wake-up call, the Timberwolves answered the bell Friday.

Not only were they tenacious defensively, forcing the Rockets (17-16) into a relatively sloppy offensive performance, but Minnesota was sharp on its own offensive end. The Wolves (25-9) moved the ball — as shown by their 31 assists — and played good all-around offense.

Six players scored in double figures. Anthony Edwards led the charge with 24 points to go with five assists. Rudy Gobert had 13 points and 12 rebounds. Karl-Anthony Towns tallied 22 points, eight boards and six assists. And Jaden McDaniels and Naz Reid each tacked on 16 points.

Minnesota shot 52 percent from the floor and 42 percent from distance. It was as complete a performance as the Timberwolves have delivered in weeks, and it came against a Rockets team that entered the night 14-5 in games in Houston.

In their first real test of the 2023-24 campaign, Minnesota’s response mechanisms passed the test with flying colors.

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