I’ve kicked a lot of habits in my life. I quit buying so many shoes online. I quit eating animal products. I even quit smoking cigarettes.
But one habit that has stuck with me since I was a kid, one I can’t seem to kick. I bite my nails when I’m anxious. I am an incredibly anxious person, which means that I bite my nails kind of a lot. It’s a gross habit, and I don’t want to do it anymore, but old habits die hard.
Why did I open things up with my fingernails? Because the Minnesota Timberwolves performance Monday night brought back a lot of habits from old that many Wolves fans thought they had kicked. From the opening tip, I was feeling a lot of “old Wolves energy” that had me begging for someone to fix Wolves.
The hope has been that Chris Finch could unlock something in this roster that could finally free the team from the cycle of mediocrity. On Monday night, he noted that he was unhappy with the Wolves’ performance to start the third quarter, saying: “Our third-quarter starts have not been great. We’ve been sluggish out of the halftime break, so that’s something we need to address.”
Third-quarter sleepies seem like a condition that has been plaguing the Wolves for a long time. But the Wolves have shown the ability to play with defensive intensity so electric it could wake anyone up. After starting the third quarter on the receiving end of an 8-0 run, the Wolves stormed back, winning the third, 30-26. It was the only quarter they won. They achieved that by picking up the pace, getting after it on defense, and running in transition. An explosive 21 points by Anthony Edwards may have helped their cause as well.
The Wolves also struggled with shot selection last night, a blemish many Wolves teams have had to deal with. Whether it was Andrew Wiggins’ long 2-pointers, Ricky Rubio’s patented midrange leaner, or in more recent vintage, Ant’s propensity to chuck it, it seems as though the when and where of shots within the flow of the offense has always been a flaw.
Finch hopes to install offensive principles that will help the Wolves create better shots for each other. Both Karl-Anthony Towns and Edwards felt much of the reason the team lost fell on their shoulders. They did not think they got their teammates involved enough in the offense.
While talking about his role in the offense with Towns, Edwards said: “We think we the only ones on the team. We got to be willing to pass the ball. There’s no “I” in team. We can’t beat five people with three people. We beat five people with five people.”
If they want to break the habit of taking bad shots, they need to stick to the plan. Part of the issue tonight is that when shots refused to fall for the Wolves, players started “trying to do too much,” according to Finch. Rather than running sets and playing within the system, Towns, Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell tried to get themselves going by finding their shot. For Towns, it worked. It took Edwards until the second half to find the basket, and DLo never really warmed up.
“The problem is we haven’t played in that style enough where guys felt like they knew where their shots were gonna come from, so now they’re just shooting them, and it’s kind of new to them, so we gotta keep working on them,” Finch said regarding shot selection.
Ultimately, this is a young team playing a new brand of basketball, with high expectations for themselves. As all young players do, they’ve got habits they’ve got to break, but they’ve also just got to figure out how to play Finch ball.