It was never going to be all sunshine and roses for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Integrating 7-footer Rudy Gobert into a lineup that already included 6-foot-11 Karl-Anthony Towns alongside perimeter standouts D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards wasn’t going to be easy.
Through two games, it certainly hasn’t been.
The Timberwolves have shown flashes of the promise the team holds with Gobert, the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, teaming up with Towns down low.
They’ve also sputtered at times on both ends of the floor over the first two games, which Minnesota has split.
Heading into Sunday’s road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Gobert is preaching patience.
“We’ve got so much talent on this team that obviously sometimes it’s hard because you feel like we can do more. Everyone feels like they can do more,” Gobert said. “But one night one guy is going to score 30, and the other night, another guy is going to score. One night, you’re going to get 10, but you might get 10 assists, or the defense might be guarding you and you might bring so much attention that you’ve just got to get rid of the ball and your team is successful.
“We’ve all got to understand that, and it takes time building those winning habits and just trusting each other, getting to do the little things for one another.”
The Timberwolves have a bit more time to acclimate to the lineup before the schedule gets much tougher.
In their first seven games, only one opponent finished .500 or better last season. That opponent was the Utah Jazz, who came to Minneapolis on Friday and defeated the Timberwolves 132-126 in overtime.
Utah, which entered rebuilding mode over the offseason, traded Gobert to Minnesota and Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
One of the Timberwolves’ immediate focuses is improving their second-half starts. The third quarter has hurt Minnesota in both games, being outscored a combined 68-45 in that span.
That includes a 35-22 deficit in the quarter to the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder in Wednesday’s season opener. Minnesota ultimately escaped with a 115-108 win.
Oklahoma City is still searching for its first victory after dropping Saturday’s game to the host Denver Nuggets 122-117.
The Thunder have been competitive in both games late but haven’t been able to finish strong.
One of their bright spots has been Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is averaging 30 points, six assists and 4.5 rebounds.
After not playing in a preseason game and missing almost all of training camp with an MCL sprain in his left knee, Gilgeous-Alexander said there’s plenty of room for growth.
“I’m not where I want to be right now,” he said after Saturday’s loss.
Minnesota will be without backup forward Kyle Anderson, who played just 38 seconds in Friday’s loss to Utah before leaving with back spasms. Anderson had two points and six rebounds in 22 minutes in Wednesday’s win over Oklahoma City.
The Thunder will be without rookie Jalen Williams, who underwent surgery after suffering a broken right orbital bone in the season opener.
–Field Level Media