MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Timberwolves hosted the San Antonio Spurs for a nationally televised game featuring two dominant Frenchmen. The matchup itted Rudy Gobert vs. mentee Victor Wembanyama, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.

After a slow start to the game for Minnesota, the Timberwolves picked up their play in the second half fueled by Gobert’s dominance on the glass and the team’s improved defensive effort. Behind that strong second half, the Wolves outlasted the Spurs and won 102-94. Rudy Gobert finished with a game-high +31 plus-minus to go along with 16 points and 20 rebounds. Let’s dive into Chris Finch’s and Gobert’s reactions to his dominant performance.

Rudy Gobert is reaching his peakTimberwolves center Rudy Gobert

When asked postgame about Rudy’s recent play, Finch sang praises of the 31-year-old center.

“This is the best I’ve seen him play on both ends of the ball,” he said. “…Of course dominating defensively and offensively he’s quite the force there too. It’s just the best I’ve ever seen him play.”

To Finch’s credit, Minnesota’s defense has been excellent all season long with Gobert being a key reason why. Wednesday night marked the eighth time this season the team held an opponent below 100 points, something that only occurred four times all of last year.

Gobert individually impacted a ton of shots at and around the rim. His primary matchup on the night, Zach Collins, shot just 6-20 from the field and grabbed only eight rebounds in 30 minutes. Rudy’s ability to stymie opponent’s drives and contain his own matchup allows others on the team to pressure the ball freely while knowing he has their back.

The three-time Defensive Player of the Year later confirmed Finch’s statement.

“Personally, I think I’m the best Rudy I’ve ever been,” Gobert said. “I’m hungry, I want to win. Until you win, you never stop. Right now, I’m trying to win a championship.”

Gobert's renaissance isn't just re-cementing him as one of the best centers in basketball. With Minnesota firmly atop the Western Conference, it's also driving the Wolves toward top-tier contender status in 2023-24.

Mike Conley was key in the win

Down the stretch of the game, Minnesota ran their offense through veteran guard Mike Conley. This isn’t a new phenomenon for the Wolves as Conley’s been huge on multiple occasions this year to close out games. Conley ended the game with 18 points, four rebounds and four assists including several timely buckets and assists to put away the Spurs.

After the game, I asked Finch about how important Conley is for the Wolves and what allows him to be so good to close out games.

“He’s really goddamn important,” Minnesota's coach told ClutchPoints of Conley.  “He doesn’t make mistakes. He gets the ball to the right people at the right time. Mike has the ability to make tough and big shots. It’s a big safety blanket, he’s closed a number of games for us.”

Finch’s ability to rely on the 16-year vet marks a stark difference from last season’s rocky up-and-down year to the calm, cool and collected Timberwolves team we’ve seen this season. With the Wolves streaking to a 15-2 record in their last 17 games, Conley has been a massive reason why. In that stretch, he is averaging 10.8 points and 6.5 assists while shooting 42.9% from three.

I asked Gobert about how stabilizing Conley, his longtime teammate dating back to their days with the Utah Jazz, is late in games for the Wolves.

“It’s invaluable. The things Mike does for our team as a floor general is so valuable,” Gobert told ClutchPoints. “He doesn’t get much credit for it, but we don’t take him for granted.”

With the Wolves clicking on all cylinders, their drastic turnaround from a bad second-half team in previous years to a very good second-half team this season falls a lot on Conley’s impact. As Minnesota holds a 2.5 game lead on the Western Conference a quarter of the way through the season, the Wolves find themselves in unfamiliar territory. The veteran presences of Gobert and Conley have been huge as other key contributors continue to mature.