canada africa partner reservation Game 1 proved that Naz Reid can get off the mat for Timberwolves – Twin Cities

Game 1 proved that Naz Reid can get off the mat for Timberwolves – Twin Cities

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DENVER – In the early stages of his professional basketball career, you could tell within the first few possessions of his first shift whether a given night was going to go well or poorly for Naz Reid.

If it started well, it would continue to go well. If it started out bad, you get it.

Reid would look great one night and terrible the next. The inconsistency made it nearly impossible to gauge what type of player would become the big man. After all, you are what you can do repeatedly.

And if Reid couldn’t overcome a few bad plays early in the game to right the ship on a given night, it was hard to see him gaining traction in the NBA in any meaningful way.

Fortunately for Minnesota, the 24-year-old reminded everyone how far he has come in the mental and emotional aspects of Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against Denver.

After a poor first series to open the postseason and a poor first half on Saturday in Denver, Timberwolves coach Chris Finch came into the locker room at halftime to challenge not just Reid, but the entire bench unit. The reserves would be Minnesota’s strength in this series, and they were badly outplayed through the first two quarters. The head coach didn’t feel like it.

“I felt they all responded, we felt they responded,” Wolves assistant coach Micah Nori said. “Especially Naz.”

Reid scored three assists, three rebounds, a steal and all 16 points in the second half, including 14 points in the final period to help the Wolves hold off the Nuggets. Sure, there was a bit of luck along the way: A banked 3-pointer as the shot clock expired midway through the fourth quarter really seemed to lift the lid off the ring for the big man.

“I just picked it up. I think I had a good connection,” Reid said. “Went inside.”

From that moment on there was no stopping it. Whenever the Nuggets tried to throw a punch, as they are wont to do to buy time, Reid was there to counterattack. He responded in every way possible on Saturday, including to a third-quarter message from teammate Rudy Gobert.

“He got frustrated in the first half. I think I came to him in the third quarter and said, ‘(Forget) what happens, (forget) what happened if you miss a shot, if you make a mistake or something… free your mind and just be yourself and just embrace the moment. Enjoy the moment, and I promise you’re going to make some plays,” Gobert said, adding a few swear words into the actual message. “And he did.”

Aside from a brief scoring drive in Game 1 of the first round against Phoenix, Saturday was Reid’s first real impact performance of the postseason. He was the first to note several times that he didn’t do much against the Suns. But that didn’t damage his confidence.

“Every series is different. I think more it was a waiting series, just the way they played. This series could be an all-around staff series,” Reid said. “So just stay with it, just stay solid. I feel like my presence wasn’t felt in that Phoenix series. I feel like I have to do more.”

He did enough on Saturday. Anthony Edwards noted that it may have been Reid’s defensive efforts against Nuggets star Nikola Jokic that got the Wolves big man going in Game 1. It was as if the physical aggression revived the mental toughness.

“He remained patient. There’s a lot of growth in Naz, man. He didn’t check out of the game. He didn’t worry about his mistakes, he just kept playing,” Edwards said. “He started fronting (Jokic) and we got some steals and he was able to get out, get some returns and make the catch. He played in the flow tonight. He didn’t let anything bother him as long as the game wasn’t going his way, and eventually it will come to you, man, if you’re patient. And he did, dude. He came across as big. He was a big reason we won tonight.”

The Sixth Man of the Year is one of the Timberwolves’ greatest player development stories in franchise history. Every year he makes huge leaps in his game as he continues to raise his ceiling and demand a bigger workload.

But when it comes to playoff basketball, there may be no more necessary trait than the ability to push through struggles and stay competitive. Reid wasn’t able to do that two years ago, when he struggled mightily and played sparingly in Minnesota’s first-round loss to Memphis.

But as is the case with most things with Reid, he has experienced a lot of improvement in that area over the past two years. And that was evident on Saturday.

“I just never gave up. I just fight, fight. Kind of how I got into the situation I’m in now,” Reid said. “Not being drafted has given me the advantage I have now. I definitely just say fight, fight, fight.

And now he’s the type of warrior Minnesota can trust in any battle.

“Naz could have been in any situation,” Gobert said. “I think he has really grown into the type of player who will win us a lot of games.”