ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Timberwolves still have much to correct on defense

Since Nov. 1, Minnesota has a defensive rating of 117.4 — third worst out of the NBA’s 30 teams.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Cleveland Cavaliers
Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert knocks the ball from Cleveland Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022, in Cleveland.
Ken Blaze / USA Today Sports
We are part of The Trust Project.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Karl-Anthony Towns was asked what the Minnesota Timberwolves could bottle from their victory Sunday in Cleveland as they move forward in the season. The big man’s response: The defense.

“The way we played defense was great. First quarter, second quarter, third quarter,” Towns said. “Fourth quarter they got hot and we had some lapses, but there were a lot of good things to take out of there.”

The stats say otherwise. Yes, Minnesota suffocated the Cavaliers in the first quarter, holding Cleveland to 20 points. But the short-handed Cavaliers, who were playing without two all-stars, put up 104 points over the final three periods.

They scored 30 points in the second quarter, 34 in the third and 40 in the fourth. Darius Garland was essentially Cleveland’s lone offensive threat, and he exploded for 51 points. A strong defensive showing it was not.

And that continued a trend for Minnesota over the past two weeks. To open the season, the promise of Rudy Gobert helping to elevate the Wolves into a consistently great defensive team was bearing statistical fruit. From the start of the season through Halloween, Minnesota was sixth in defensive rating, allowing 107.5 points per 100 possessions.

ADVERTISEMENT

That number didn’t exactly match the eye test, but Minnesota was hopeful that if it could post that type of number when it was figuring things out early, things could only go up from there.

Instead, they have gotten far worse on the defensive end. Since Nov. 1, Minnesota has a defensive rating of 117.4 — third worst out of the NBA’s 30 teams. The Wolves have just two wins in that span. In that time, the Wolves are allowing opponents to shoot 27.4 free throws per game — the most in the league — while opponents also shoot 40.5 percent from 3 point range, which ranks the Wolves third-worst in the NBA.

It’s not a great combination.

MORE MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES COVERAGE:
Pro
The rookie learned he would be making his 1st NBA start just before tipoff against Memphis
Pro
Edwards finished with 29 points, including 17 in the final frame, to go with five rebounds, five steals and three blocked shots.
Pro
All-Star center suffered a calf strain in Monday’s loss to Washington.
Pro
He left the game after suffering an apparent non-contact injury while running back on defense.
Pro
A 25-2 run highlighted a first quarter Golden State won 47-27.
Pro
The Timberwolves have been booed at more home games than not thus far this season
Pro
Minnesota was outscored 39-21 in the 3rd quarter
Pro
One game after tallying zero shot attempts, Rudy Gobert finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds.
Pro
That’s the hope, the idea, the promise. Edwards is still so young, skilled and talented. He expresses his will to get better in all areas of the game, consistency included.
Pro
Towns, Edwards lead the way in home victory.

Towns and Gobert have been in consistent foul trouble. That’s a product, Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said, of allowing ball handlers to run at the defense without resistance.

Opponents are getting easy buckets off cuts while guarded by the likes of Anthony Edwards and, especially, D’Angelo Russell. That, Finch noted, is an easy fix if players simply pay attention.

“Just don’t come up the floor unnecessarily,” he said. “Pretty basic basketball, stay between your man and the basket, particularly when there’s not a lot going on.”

Russell feels like improvement is occurring, even with the mental lapses on defense. Those corrections can help build a foundation when addressed.

“We continue to harp on them in the film and we see these things,” Russell said. “It allows you to not want to be on film.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Any improvements do show themselves in small doses for Minnesota, such as in the first quarter in Cleveland. The trouble for the Timberwolves has been sustaining that play for four quarters. A big part of the problem, Gobert noted, is urgency.

“I think when we’re up 20, it’s human nature to get a little more comfortable,” the center said. “For us, it happens within the flow of the game, every game when we play well we start getting a little comfortable. That’s gotta go.”

______________________________________________________

This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

Related Topics: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
What to read next
Pro
Minnesota winger stretched his career-long point streak to 10 games in the process
Pro
The issue popped up after Peterson called out Murray on his podcast
Pro
Since the trophy was 1st awarded in 1957, no receiver has ever won
Pro
New-look women’s hockey team is host to the Metropolitan Riveters on Saturday