LOS ANGELES – Every Timberwolves halftime begins with the players talking amongst themselves. Depending on the night, the tone of that discussion can vary. Then the coaches come in.
During Monday's 121-100 victory over the Clippers, assistant Elston Turner showed the Wolves defensive clips where they weren't being as physical as they could be, and coach Chris Finch took Anthony Edwards aside to show him offensive moments where Edwards was allowing the Clippers to dictate their gameplan by bringing two defenders over to him.
Everyone made the necessary adjustments on both ends of the floor, and it added up to a 40-19 third quarter for the Wolves, who have made a habit of taking control of games after halftime all season. Monday was the latest example of how that process has been an effective one, leading to one of their most impressive victories of the season against another contender for the Western Conference's top seed.
"It's a mixture sometimes. Sometimes it's all good. Sometimes it's good and bad," guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker said of the halftime discussions. "It's all bad if we need it. I think one of the good things is we respond well. That's just the key to the NBA."
Anthony Edwards mentioned that Rudy Gobert, in particular, had some strong words for the group, but that helped motivate them for the third quarter.
"We get cussed out in here," Edwards said.
Was it in French or English?
"English," Edwards said. "We don't know French."
It's not always Gobert doing the swearing. But between those moments of passion, there have to be corrections and adjustments made with a level head. Take the offense, which struggled to just 49 points in the first half as the Wolves trailed by four.
Edwards and Finch went over the film, and Edwards came out with a different plan of attack after scoring just six points in the first half.
"Whole first half they was putting two on me the entire game," Edwards said. "Loading up, and I was dribbling, dribbling, dribbling. Allowing them to get in the gaps. Finchy came here and he showed clips. He was like, 'Ant, you can go fast, and they can't load up on you. Play off the catch.' So I was trying to get out in transition and play off the catch more and it helped me."
That unlocked Edwards for 12 of his 23 points and three assists in the third quarter. Karl-Anthony Towns (a team high 24 points) then got to the free-throw line late in the quarter for 10 points of his own, and Rudy Gobert found space to operate in the paint and on putbacks as the Clippers tried to go small on them to no avail.
"Listen, that's how we're built," Finch said. "It's part of our identity. That's what we have to lean into, and it's been great to us."
Defensively, Finch credited Turner for showing clips that get "right to the heart of the matter."
On Monday, that was upping the Wolves' physicality in a game where officials didn't call a lot of touch fouls.
"We were playing really good in the first half, just missing the little extra efforts," Gobert said. "We were giving them offensive rebounds and sometimes we weren't running back on defense. Once we cleaned that up, we were able to close great defensive possessions, able to run on them."
The Wolves held the Clippers triumvirate of Kawhi Leonard, James Harden and Paul George in check. They were a combined 18-for-46 (39%) as the Wolves held the Clippers to just 41% shooting overall. Jaden McDaniels played through a index finger injury with a wrap on his left hand to score 11 points and play key defense on all three at different points.
"We got Jaden and Rudy, so pretty much it's let Jaden do what he do and send everything down to the big Ru," Edwards said.
With Edwards leading the offensive charge, almost everyone joined in on the fun. Gobert finished with 17. New Wolves guard Monte Morris had five in his debut. Alexander-Walker had 15 and Naz Reid had some key buckets early in the fourth that squashed any hope the Clippers had of making it a game after that dominant third.
"A lot of times what happens is we walk in the door and all of us are just talking to each other as a team, as brothers, telling each other what we see," Towns said of the Wolves' halftime chats. "Things we could do better, things we can exploit, offensively and defensively, and coach comes in and do his thing, tell us, either the same and make it an emphasis about what we need to do or show us things that we don't see."
Everyone was on the same page Monday, and it was some of the best basketball the Wolves played all season.