Wolves 124, Lakers 104: Patrick Beverley Understands His Importance

No one inspires the Target Center crowd quite like Patrick Beverley.

Anthony Edwards possesses a rare showmanship. Karl-Anthony Towns does things nightly as a seven-footer that make your jaw drop. D’Angelo Russell has created a unique relationship with the fans by demanding more from them and stepping up when the Wolves need him.

The Wolves Big 3 is fairly talked about the most because of their collective talent, where they were drafted, their impact in the scoring column and appearances on highlight reels.

But in a city that has had no relationship with true, lasting playoff NBA basketball — outside of one-season stand with TimberBulls mercenaries — in the last 18 years, its faithful Wolves fans hold a special appreciation reserved only for winning, blue collar basketball players like Beverly.

Beverley has an unmatched sixth sense for knowing when the Wolves need their crowd to get back into it and help the team regain a lead, push a lead to double digits, or balloon a lead back up after the opponent throws a punch.

Tonight, he came out attacking early with nine points and a big block in the first quarter, after which the Wolves led 31-17. The crowd loved it, remaining ready to explode at whatever spark the wily veteran guard could provide.

Time and again, the three-time All-Defensive team member delivered, and then let the Lakers know about it.

After a second quarter onslaught that featured 20 points from Edwards, behind a flurry of 3-pointers, paired with electrifying defensive plays from Edwards and Beverley, the Wolves started feeling themselves. That culminated with Beverley’s parade around the Target Center floor hyping up the crowd (above) after reserving a choice word for Russell Westbrook.

Up 21 at the half, Minnesota entered the tunnel exuding a collective, invincible swagger that did not follow them out of the locker room.

That energy didn’t follow the Timberwolves out of the locker room.

Towns picked up his fourth — and third offensive — crowd of the night at the 10:28 mark of the third quarter. Things spiral rather quickly from there.

The Wolves offense lacked flow; their defense left open the lane and key shooters; and, unsurprisingly, Towns began to talk to his teammates on the bench about the officiating.

At the time, Beverley was in the game, flying around and trying to help keep the Lakers at bay while making a push. Once he exited at the 3:43 mark of the quarter, he sensed something wasn’t to his liking on the bench.

Towns’ frustration level reached a boiling point when he was turning around to speak with Russell, who was riding the exercise bike after coming out of the game. Shortly after sitting down, Beverley began yelling at Towns.

“He looked me dead in the eyes and said, ‘It’s your fault,’” Towns recalled postgame. “I said, ‘My fault? I can’t control some of the adversity I’m going through (officiating).’ It is what it is.”

Beverley was having none of it.

The locker room leader told Towns, “’Go be great! There’s no “I can’t”.’”

Towns replied, “’You know what? I got you.’ I got challenged by him and I’m going to respond to him.”

The three-time All-Star center outdid his point total of 14 in the first three quarters with a 16-point fourth quarter that featured everything Towns is capable of on the offensive end. His performance served to remind not everyone in attendance, but mostly himself, of just how dominating he can be.

“He told me, ‘Go be great.’ That’s why I ran away after I hit some shots that caused a timeout,” Towns said. “I said, ‘Is that what you want?’ He said, ‘Exactly what I want.’”

“He’s a very, very special player,” Beverley said after the game. “Sometimes, the passion he plays with, whether he’s getting the right calls or whether he’s not getting the right calls, my job is to continue to preach to him how dominating he’s supposed to be every night.”

Beverley undoubtedly did his job tonight by getting Towns in the right headspace with the team entering a crucial fourth quarter on its heels. Towns is extremely appreciative of having someone like Beverley in his ear all the time because of the way in which Beverley treats him; for Beverley, it’s all about empowering Towns, not accosting him.

“Just a great relationship when you have people like that. That’s what makes this team different,” Towns said with a serious, yet inspired tone. “We can talk to each other. We can challenge each other. We can curse at each other. We can really get into each other and know it comes from a place of wellbeing and a place that’s best for this team.”

While accountability is unequivocally the most important base for this team, the way this team has fun is what stirs the drink.

“We started playing basketball for the fun of it, the competitiveness of it. It’s a fine line you can flirt with in the game,” Beverley said. “I think that’s part of the game that’s been lost, and these fans in Minnesota, they appreciate that. We go out there, being competitive, having fun, leaving the game, win or lose, you can look at yourself in the mirror and say did I have fun today? And for the most part, since I’ve been here, we’ve been having fun, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

That spirit and mentality Beverley has instilled in this team has the Wolves bringing swagger into Target Center every night they walk into the arena.

“Being on the other side, coming into Minnesota, swagless team over the years,” Beverley noted in an honest way. “Not really understanding an identity. But this year is very different. We know exactly who we are. We’re not backing down from anybody.”

Edwards had plenty to say about how different the attitude of this year’s Wolves team is from last year’s team.

“A couple players on your team gotta have swag. It can’t just be one,” Edwards said, clearly referencing himself. “Once a couple of them get swag, then you put it in three more, four more and everybody feel like they the man of the hour and that’s what we need.”

“This is not the Timberwolves that didn’t have swag since ’04. Because I’m coming with a lot of swag,” Edwards continued. “And I’m putting that in my teammates. And Pat Bev coming with a lot of swag and he’s putting it into teammates. We’re going to go off that.”

Perhaps the player who has benefitted the most from that added swagger is Towns, who now more than ever looks like a player who truly believes he is the best player on the floor every time he steps in between the lines.

“KAT last year didn’t say a word on the court, now he talking crazy to people. It’s because he got swag,” Edwards said. “He kill the drip coming into the game, showing off the watch, know what I’m saying? Yeah, he’s swaggy. For sure. Love date. Love KAT.”

Perhaps the most damning evidence of Towns’ renaissance was not written in his franchise-record-setting 60-point performance in win over the Spurs on Monday night, but rather in what Beverley said to close out a response to my question about his interaction with Towns in the third quarter.

“I thought my biggest task when I came here was going to be KAT and it’s not. It’s been great,” Beverly said. “Man, of course you hear all those stories about different players before you meet them. Guys, they tell me this, they tell me that about KAT and just seeing him up personal, it’s totally the opposite of everything I’ve heard.”

KAT’s greatness receiving a stamp of approval from one of the game’s most universally respected competitors is something many Wolves fans may not have dreamed of last season. But it is a reality today, because it finally feels like KAT has turned a corner on the court.

Los Angeles Lakers v Minnesota Timberwolves

Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Russell frequently barks at Towns from the bench, yelling, “Don’t play with your food!” Behind Beverley’s guidance, the infusion of swag from a one of the league’s brightest young stars in Edwards, and a group of teammates that truly believes in him, empowers him, and holds him accountable, Towns is now consistently returning a clean plate when the final buzzer sounds night in and night out.

With a win tonight, the Timberwolves have at worst clinched a spot in the play-in games (seeds No. 7 through No. 10.).

Next up is a few days off before home game against the World Champion Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday at 4 PM at Target Center. Minnesota is 1-0 against Milwaukee this season.

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