'Inside the NBA' crew does not believe in Timberwolves

·4 min read

Jan. 28—The Timberwolves made their one schedule TNT appearance on Thursday night, playing the Golden State Warriors on the road. As much as those games are good for playing under the bright spotlight, it's just as interesting to hear new perspectives from national media members.

No one is saying the Inside the NBA crew features the most educated analysts in the league. Far from it. Charles Barkley couldn't remember Anthony Edwards' name during his postgame analysis. Perhaps he only knows the second-year standout guard as Black Jesus.

But with their wildly popular postgame show, Barkley, Kenny Smith, Shaquille O'Neal and Ernie Johnson are four of the most prominent voices in the NBA. So what they say about the Timberwolves will help shape the opinions of the non-diehard fans who aren't scouring League Pass at night to watch every team and player.

And while the Timberwolves, who are a firm fixture in the Western Conference playoff race, put up a strong fight Thursday against Golden State, Barkley and crew didn't walk away overly impressed. Summing up his thoughts postgame, Barkley simply said, "The Warriors good, the Minnesota Timberwolves not."

"The Minnesota Timberwolves got a lot of talent," Barkley said. "Not a brain in their head, though."

"I would agree with that," Smith said. "They're just not patient enough."

Johnson came to Minnesota's defense, saying the Timberwolves have "some pieces."

Smith rebutted by saying in the NBA, "there has to be a definitive style of play." He said you don't know what you're going to see from Minnesota on a nightly basis, adding its opponent dependent.

"So they don't force you into a style of play to win, they win at your style," Smith said. "That's why they're inconsistent. Because they never establish anything interior or exterior."

That's not entirely accurate. Minnesota has the fourth-fastest pace across the NBA this season. The Timberwolves do generally get up and down the floor, sans when they have a late lead and slow the game way down, much to coach Chris Finch's chagrin. But high-pressure, turnover-inducing defense and high-volume 3-point shooting have both been consistent staples of the Timberwolves' attack this season.

They largely know who they are. The one criticism to Smith's point can be that opponents can force Minnesota's hand. Teams can too easily choose what they want to take away from the Timberwolves, whether that be Edwards — as Golden State did in the first half Thursday — or Towns, as the Warriors did in half No. 2.

"In the first half, Karl-Anthony Towns dominated down in the post, and he didn't go back down there," Barkley said.

That was because Golden State adjusted to double-team Towns in the post, as most teams have all season.

"The rest of them just shoot it anytime they want to," Barkley said. "You three (Towns, Edwards and D'Angelo Russell) got the green light. You other guys just can't come down and jack it anytime they want to. That drove me crazy. I see now why they're inconsistent."

Finch has suggested all season that basically everyone indeed has the green light. Minnesota wants a free-flowing offense where everyone is a threat. That's what generates ample spacing. But the flaw in the offense for much of the season has been the lack of shotmaking outside of the Timberwolves' big three. It reared its head again Thursday, as neither Malik Beasley nor Jaylen Nowell could buy a bucket from deep.

TOWNS HAPPY FOR WIGGINS

Towns and Andrew Wiggins shared a lengthy, warm embrace after Thursday's game, as Towns congratulated his former teammate on Wiggins' first all-star selection — a starter selection, no less.

"I think it's beautiful," Towns said.

In the previous meeting between the two teams, Towns told Wiggins he couldn't wait to see him at all-star weekend. Towns thinks it's fitting Wiggins' first appearance will come in Cleveland after Wiggins was originally selected No. 1 overall by the Cavaliers. Towns said he himself voted for Wiggins.

"I just want to see my teammates be great. If I've shown anything in my career, I'm willing to put my pride to the side for the betterment of others. I love that my teammates, regardless if they're former or current, are doing well. It's a bond you build," Towns said. "We went to wars together out there. We prepared for these games. There's a lot of blood, sweat and tears we put into this game for each other. I just want to see him see the fruits of his labor, and I'm glad he's able to see that today."

Finch sounded confident Thursday that Towns will be named an all-star reserve when they are determined next week via voting from the coaches. Media has no say in reserve selections, but the Inside the NBA crew was split on Towns' inclusion. Johnson and O'Neal had Towns in, while Barkley and Smith went with Memphis forward Jaren Jackson Jr. over the Wolves' big man.

Not one of the four panelists tabbed Edwards as an all-star.