The Minnesota Timberwolves entered Monday night’s game against the Celtics without four starters as they are dealing with a COVID outbreak that’s put Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, and Jarred Vanderbilt, among others, on the sideline (as well as some assistant coaches).
The Celtics were likewise shorthanded, with Jayson Tatum going into protocols on Monday, but did have Jaylen Brown and Al Horford, and seemed like they would simply outclass the Wolves’ cobbled together roster when they went up 11 after a gutsy start from Minnesota to keep things close. However, the Wolves’ reserves and replacement players refused to roll over and stormed back to a 108-103 win that was among the more stunning of the season.
Leading the way for the Wolves was Jaylen Nowell with a career-high 29 points, as well as 20 points from Nathan Knight (also a career-high) and 11 points, nine rebounds, and six assists from Greg Monroe, playing in his first NBA game in two years. After the game, Monroe reflected on the general insanity of just how thrown together the roster was on Monday by saying he had never even heard of Jaylen Nowell before the game.
Greg Monroe when asked if he knows who all of his teammates are:
"Not gonna lie, Jaylen Nowell played awesome tonight, but I had no idea who that was."
— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) December 28, 2021
It’s a pretty funny quote from Monroe, who also had a very McConaughey perspective on returning to the league two years later, “the game stays the same, just the players change.” Now, Nowell isn’t some first-timer in the NBA, he’s played three seasons in Minnesota and is averaging 6.3 points in 19 games this season, but he has certainly never taken a starring role like he had to on Monday and Monroe has been busy playing in the G League with the Capital City Go-Go before getting the call to return to the NBA and give Minnesota a needed boost on the inside. It was quite the introduction from Nowell, and seeing guys like him take advantage of opportunity and make an impression has, undoubtedly, been the biggest positive of what has been a dreadful month in the NBA with so many absences.