Timberwolves

Minnesota's Offense Has Undergone the Necessary Improvements

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves have won five of their last six games. While this team has established their identity on the defensive end, their offensive output has played a big part in this stretch. Following the 108-106 loss to the Orlando Magic where the Wolves capitulated in the fourth quarter, Chris Finch held an hour-long film session to get his team back to the basics and further away from the self-inflicted mistakes that have haunted them late in games. Given how the Wolves have performed since that loss, it’s safe to say that Finch’s message has slowly started to affect the team’s approach.

In the last five games, the Timberwolves have had fewer turnovers than their opponents. Turnovers have plagued the Wolves this year, largely contributing to their below-average rank for offensive efficiency and second-half points per game. However, Minnesota has meaningfully improved in those categories lately. In the last three games, the Timberwolves are ranked fourth in offensive efficiency and second in second-half points per game. It’s a significant improvement showing that Wolves are addressing their shortcomings.

What has contributed to this progression? A few things come to mind, starting with the contributions from Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota’s All-Stars. The pairing is heavily featured in Finch’s offensive game plan, and many actions revolve around them. Edwards and Towns have improved by being more discerning with their isolation attempts.

Often, they’d attack the basket and receive offensive fouls or attempt contested shots. Now, they’re looking to make simple reads, whether or not it results in them scoring. Edwards and Towns garner a lot of defensive attention on a nightly basis, and they’re starting to use that to their advantage.

As a result, the Timberwolves have fewer scoring droughts. In the last five games, the Wolves are fourth in team points per game. It’s been a struggle for them throughout the season, but they’re starting to eliminate some bad habits. Their ball movement has improved, which has kept everyone involved and disciplined.

It’s also ensured that they remain shot-ready; good offensive possessions don’t usually end with one player handing another a grenade. The Wolves have forced fewer shots as a by-product of their improved ball movement, whether that’s contested shots or driving attempts. The Timberwolves have started to find the best shot on each possession, and it’s been successful for them. Sometimes, the stars might not always reap the benefits of good offense. Sometimes, it might be Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s night.

Minnesota’s defense has also been more consistent lately. The Timberwolves have had the league’s best defense all season, but it faltered when they entered a tough stretch in their schedule near the end of December. That hasn’t been the case lately, though, and it’s stemmed from playing the brand of basketball that brought them early-season success. The Wolves have long been a team that’s let their offense affect their defense, likely a sign of their immaturity. There are negatives to that approach, but it’s been working in their favor. They’re now regaining an identity that was starting to fade away.

The Wolves are still waiting to see the best of Monte Morris after acquiring him at the trade deadline. In his introductory press conference, Morris said he’s still trying to get back to himself after missing a large part of the season due to a quad injury. Knowing that the Wolves have experienced this stretch as a player of Morris’ quality is still ramping up is promising. Hopefully, the All-Star break has helped Morris find his footing again.

The Wolves will have to continue playing at this level offensively. With 27 games remaining in the regular season, the Wolves must stay focused. They’re in a position they haven’t been in for a long time, and it’s easy to drop a few spots in the standings with how tight the top of the conference is this season. If the Wolves can maintain this level of offense while being paired with their elite defense, they become a much more dangerous threat in the Western Conference.

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