After one of the more travel-heavy starts to a season the Timberwolves have ever dealt with, the madness will now subside a bit.
The Wolves open a five-game homestand against the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night, a team they beat 112-99 on Nov. 4, and 111-87 on Nov. 17.
At that point, the Mavericks looked like the worst team in the league, and were as down on themselves as a team could be.
A month later, it’s clear they can compete, but it’s also clear November’s win in Dallas was no fluke.
Since that game, the Mavericks are 5-5, with wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets. They’ve seen better production from Harrison Barnes, who continues to lead them in scoring.
Dirk Nowitzki, their all-time leading scorer, is playing better, too. He’s shooting 42 percent from 3-point land since their loss to the Wolves, and is leading his starting group in true shooting percentage and effective field goal percentage by a substantial margin.
But they still sit dead last in the Western Conference, and are in the bottom five in offensive rating. They’ve been a competitive team for nearly all of Dirk Nowitzki’s 20-year career, but that run has come to an end.
And now they face a Timberwolves team that has finally gotten some rest.
With the exception of one four-game homestand at the end of November, the Timberwolves haven’t spent more than a game at home without returning back on the road.
The Wolves, back for a five-game homestand that will go through Dec. 18, finally have a chance to feel at home in the Twin Cities.
They also get their longest break between games so far this season, not playing since their win last Wednesday over the Los Angeles Clippers.
And considering the large minute load, the Timberwolves starters have experienced so far this season, the time at home has to be something they’re looking forward to.
After Jimmy Butler mentioned the big minutes after their win over the Clippers, his younger teammate alluded to the same concern at Saturday’s practice.
Wiggins on the minute load: "It's a lot. We have some older guys on this team. We also have some young guys. I don't really get tired. I'm only 22, so I could run forever — for now."
— jace frederick (@JaceFrederick) December 9, 2017
As the Wolves remain without a key bench presence in Nemanja Bjelica, combined with Thibodeau’s lack of trust in Shabazz Muhammad, the rotation remains at eight players.
And even with those three guys off the bench – Tyus Jones, Jamal Crawford, and Gorgui Dieng – it’s rare to see more than one of them hit 20 minutes in a game. Part of that is the complexion of positions available to them, and part of it is his general trust in the bench.
In short, Thibodeau is playing who he thinks will get his team wins. So far, it’s mostly working.
But either way, it’s resulted in the Wolves’ leading the league in minutes played by a five-man lineup. It’s by a large margin, too.
Keep in mind, that number would be higher had Jimmy Butler not missed a pair of games early in the season.
This might be a problem down the road, especially come playoff time. But for now, the Timberwolves are at 15-11, and are facing off against a team they have beaten before in a big way.
- When asked about Nemanja Bjelica’s timetable Saturday, Thibodeau seemed unsure. He told reporters “We’ll see where he is [Sunday],” indicating he’s probably still a game-time decision.
- It’s been a while since the Timberwolves gave up fewer than 100 points in a win. In fact, the last time was Nov. 17, against the Mavericks.
- Speaking of defense, Justin Patton had 4 blocks in his Iowa Wolves debut. Check out his entire highlight reel here.
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