Timberwolves

No Rebounds, No Rings: The Wolves Must Neutralize Dallas On the Offensive Glass

Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Western Conference Finals are upon us, and the Minnesota Timberwolves are making their first WCF appearance since their historic 2003-04 season. While the NBA has changed significantly since then, so has Minnesota’s identity. They are now supercharged by size and length. That advantage over their opponents has been stark throughout the entire season. They can affect shots at a high level and finish off those possessions by snaring rebounds at will.

While rebounding can make for boring basketball conversation, it’s vital to playoff success. “No rebounds, no rings,” Pat Riley once said. If one side consistently finds ways to capitalize on second-chance possessions for points, it can completely turn the tide of a game or series.

Nothing is more frustrating than putting together multiple defensive efforts and forcing misses for 24-plus seconds only to have it cleaned up for points. That’s why it is so important to finish off possessions.

While the Wolves have been able to hold it down defensively, they have had a key group of willing rebounders. All remain consistent throughout the entire regular season and into the playoffs.

  • Rudy Gobert (7’1”) averaged 12.9 REB in the regular season and has averaged 10.9 REB in the playoffs
  • Karl-Anthony Towns (7’0”) averaged 8.3 REB in the regular season and has averaged 9.3 REB in the playoffs
  • Naz Reid (6’9”) averaged 5.2 REB in the regular season and has averaged 10.9 REB in the playoffs
  • Anthony Edwards (6’4”) averaged 5.4 REB in the regular season and has averaged 6.2 REB in the playoffs.

That added up to a 50.8% regular season REB%, which ranked eighth in the NBA. In the playoffs, the Wolves have had a 54.1% REB%, which ranks second.

Why is this so vital? The Mavericks have been absolute dogs on the offensive glass throughout these playoffs and have continued to extend possessions. Four key players, all new to Dallas this season, have driven their offensive rebounding.

Dallas has had the second-best OREB% in the NBA these playoffs, trailing only the New York Knicks. They hold a 32.5% OREB%, a massive change from their regular-season mark of 25.7%, which ranked 25th in the NBA. Their 15 second-chance PPG also ranks third in the playoffs this season.

The difference likely is related to who Dallas played to get to the Western Conference Finals.

They faced the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. The Clippers love to go small and only have one true big, Ivica Zubac. Mason Plumlee was LA’s only other big they played in this series, but he only saw 11 minutes per game. Therefore, Dallas found consistent success on the offensive glass.

In the second round, the Mavericks faced the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team with rebounding concerns all season. OKC could have brought in more size at the deadline. However, they decided against it to keep their offensive schematics in place and see how their core would react to a playoff run first. That decision backfired because Dallas consistently found ways to exploit their rebounding issues. In Game 7 alone, the Mavericks snagged 14 offensive rebounds.

The Timberwolves are a different beast, though. Dallas has not faced a team in the playoffs with nearly as much size as Minnesota.

While the Wolves have always had the tools to be an excellent rebounding unit, many obstacles have limited their success since last season.

Adjusting to having two bigs on the court simultaneously was not without growing pains. However, it wasn’t just them. Jaden McDaniels and Edwards often lacked the awareness to collect weak-side rebounds. Even down the guard room, there was not a ton of urgency to collect long rebounds. However, they’ve improved, and the Wolves are reaping the benefits.

Add in the ability to close possessions with Minnesota’s suffocating defense, and it is an equation for success. However, world-class defense will only get the Timberwolves so far if they cannot corral misses, especially because it would give Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving more opportunities. Still, if the Wolves continue what they have shown in the playoffs, it should neutralize the issue.

The Wolves already showcased this in the Denver series. They took away second-chance opportunities from Nikola Jokic and Aaron Gordon, two players who can completely take over a game by hammering away around the rim. The Timberwolves consistently use controlled aggression to gang rebound, and they also have the most important players, Rudy Gobert and KAT, who consistently grab contested rebounds.

While Dallas has significantly improved its big-man depth, Minnesota’s experience, size, and willpower should be able to neutralize what the Mavericks have shown on the offensive glass in the playoffs. Taking away one of Dallas’s biggest strengths in the playoffs should give the Wolves a massive advantage.

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Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

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