The Minnesota Timberwolves have used a stretch against Eastern Conference opponents to bounce back after a poor start to their season. The Wolves gave fans little to cheer about in their 5-8 start. They played with a lack of energy, and fans began to boo their team at Target Center. But the Wolves have shown a spark of life during their five-game win streak.
The Wolves seemed to have found a little bit more spark in their play during this win streak, and they have received good performances from all parts of their roster. The bench has played well. The team has closed out close games. And their stars – Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Rudy Gobert – have propelled the team to a 10-9 record.
However, there are still a few key areas that the Wolves have to continue improving on. One of them is turnovers. The Wolves have had other shortcomings: shooting the three-ball, defensive mishaps, and trouble controlling the glass. But Minnesota’s turnover rate is one of the main sources of trouble for them that played a role in their slow start to this season.
Through the first 18 games of the season, the Timberwolves are averaging 15.6 turnovers per game, ranking 25th in the league. Furthermore, the Wolves also find themselves toward the bottom of the league in opponent points off turnovers, with opponents averaging 20.9 points per game off turnovers, ranking them 27th in the league. For reference, the remaining three worst teams in that category are the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, and Houston Rockets – all currently bottom-five teams in the West and out of the play-in picture.
Thankfully, the Wolves appeared to have done a better job addressing their turnover issues during this winning streak. In their victories against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic that kicked off the winning streak, Minnesota only committed 13 and 10 turnovers, respectively. However, in their subsequent games against the Philadelphia 76ers and the Miami Heat, the Wolves fell back into their turnover-prone ways, committing 20 and 18 turnovers, respectively.
Thankfully for the Wolves, neither the Sixers nor the Heat were able to fully capitalize with points off Minnesota’s turnovers. The Sixers scored 18 points off turnovers, and the Heat only scored 12.
However, it’s important to remember that the Sixers were without their starting backcourt in Tyrese Maxey and James Harden. And the Heat were without a large chunk of their core players, including Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro. Despite that, both games still came down to the wire. The Wolves won both of those games by only seven points combined.
Now imagine if either team was healthier or capitalized more on points off of Minnesota’s turnovers. There is a good chance the Wolves lose one or both of those games and alter the positive vibes that the team felt on their win streak. If the Wolves want to continue to experience that feeling and increase their standing in the conference, they need to really keep their turnovers in check, especially heading into December.
Next month, the Wolves will play the Oklahoma City Thunder (twice), Dallas Mavericks (twice), Portland Trail Blazers (twice), Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, and the New Orleans Pelicans. All of these teams rank very near or within the top 10 in the league when it comes to points off turnovers this season.
The Wolves lost the turnover battle in seven of Minnesota’s eight losses this season. While other parts of the game impact who wins and who loses, turnovers often can play a significant role. Not only does a turnover-prone team lose their offensive possessions, but they also can lead to fast break points or easy scores for the opposing team. Turnovers often create momentum swings in a game, especially on the road.
The Wolves have good things to now build off with their recent stretch of winning ball games. However, their turnover maintenance and ability to limit their opponents from scoring easy buckets off these mistakes will be something to keep our eyes on as the Wolves head into this next month of basketball. Chris Finch and the team will need to emphasize reducing turnovers, especially if they hope to continue this hot streak and have a good standing in a competitive Western Conference.