Edwards, Towns take charge in Wolves’ thrashing of Rockets

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With every step-back, Anthony Edwards sent a murmur through the Target Center crowd. A quiet hush would build, just waiting to explode on whatever Edwards decided to do next.

Would he drive? Pull up for three?

On a few occasions in the second quarter, Edwards decided to pull up. He would hit four threes, each of them sending the decibel level soaring higher, and at one point Edwards motioned to the Houston bench to call timeout as the Wolves were on their way to a 124-106 victory.

The Timberwolves' 2021-22 season began with the kind of organizational upheaval that has become a trademark of the franchise when President Gersson Rosas was fired last month.

But throughout training camp, the players and coach Chris Finch preached that the "spirit" and "vibes" around the team were nothing but positive. It looked that way Wednesday, with Edwards (29 points) leading the charge in that department.

The crowd came alive in pre-game introductions when he was introduced second-to-last just in front of Karl-Anthony Towns, who didn't have a shabby night himself with a game-high 30 points and 10 rebounds. The Wolves were playing the lowly Rockets, projected to finish in the basement of the Western Conference, but if the Wolves have any designs on escaping that destination as well, they have to play like that against teams they are supposed to beat.

It all made for a better atmosphere than some recent seasons in Target Center, such as three years ago when fans booed Jimmy Butler and Tom Thibodeau, or last season when COVID-19 prevented fans from attending. The crowd responded to the Wolves' renewed sense of purpose on defense, forcing Houston into eight first-quarter turnovers. With players such as Josh Okogie, Jaden McDaniels and Jarred Vanderbilt flying around, the Wolves played with the effort they pledged would be there on that end all preseason.

The question going forward is can they keep that up on a nightly basis?

The offense was a little slower to get going, with the score tied 9-9 a little less than five minutes into the game. But the Wolves scored the next eight points thanks in part to transition buckets fueled by turnovers and a McDaniels (four points, three blocks, four steals) defensive rebound. That area, rebounding, was also a point of concern this offseason.

The Wolves ended up outrebounding Houston 46-41. Towns was efficient in shooting 11-for-15 from the field, while Edwards picked up where he left off at the second half of last season with a 10-for-21 performance, including 6-for-12 from deep.

D'Angelo Russell had a slow start, with seven points on 2-for-7 shooting in the first half. But he caught fire for a stretch in the second half after Houston cut a 27-point Wolves lead to 18. Russell buried three consecutive threes to put the Wolves back up 27. He finished with 22 and seven assists on 6-for-16 shooting. The Wolves didn't take their foot off the gas pedal for long in the second half. In the fourth quarter, Edwards brought the crowd to its feet again with a thunderous dunk.

Okogie kept them there as he went flying for a block seconds later on the other end. The Wolves kept the lead in the high 20s or early 30s before Finch emptied the bench.

Not every opponent will be like Houston, who committed 24 turnovers, but the Wolves have a generous early-season schedule and a lot of home games for those opponents. If they want the good vibes to keep rolling, more performances like Wednesday's will make sure of that.

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