Again, loss to PHI is emblematic of larger issues, not cause for panic in its own right. Bad nights happen. Bad weeks/months are problems.
— Seth Partnow (@SethPartnow) January 5, 2016
Entering their Sunday matinee with the Clippers on November 29th, the Timberwolves were a fun little surprise at 8-8. Ricky Rubio missed that one with an injury, and the Wolves lost in forgettable fashion, 107-99, in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. All told, they’ve gone 4-15 since tipoff that afternoon, bookended by another loss last night, this one to the lowly Sixers in Philadelphia, 109-99. As Seth wisely put it, the loss in Philly isn’t the problem, really; it’s the entire past month that’s cause for real alarm.
Before I continue, here is a heartbreaking Vine of a raccoon accidentally dropping his sugary candy treat into some water:
Minnesota’s offense has gone the way of that oversized sugar cube when it landed in the water. They last cracked triple digits on December 20th, 9 games and 7 losses ago, when they put up an even 100 against the woebegone Brooklyn Nets. Over their past 8 games, the Wolves have averaged 11 three-point attempts per game. They have made 89 midrange shots and taken 89 three-point attempts. They’re shooting 38% on long twos over that stretch, a perfectly mediocre rate, but they’ve taken nearly 30 shots from that area per game, tops in the league. They’ve hit 15-of-63 above the break threes, which is 23.8%. They’ve hit 46.2% of their corner threes (YAY! Good news?!?) but they barely take three of those per game (aw, shucks). Their free throw attempts per game have dipped from 27.4 per night to 24.1, and their percentage at the line has plummeted from 81% to 72%. As the season goes along, they’re taking more midrange jumpers, fewer threes, getting to the line less often and converting at a lower rate when they do manage get there.
Here is a GIF of someone having a really bad day at work:
Know who had a bad day at work? Anyone on the Wolves’ staff who pays attention to how successful teams play these days and has aspirations that the team can mimic that style. Last night, the Wolves took 5 threes. Five. Cinco. They became just the seventh team since the start of of the 2012-13 season to pull off that dubious feat. “But they still shot 53% for the game,” you might argue. “Clearly they were doing something right.” Sure, okay. There was this:
Rubio steal, Towns finish. pic.twitter.com/gs6W861ohg
— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) January 5, 2016
and all of that was fun, right?
A question, though: how does a team with an offense so devoted to spending time inside the arc get their ass kicked so thoroughly on the glass? Philadelphia pulled down 12 offensive rebounds and 37 overall; Minnesota managed just 6 offensive boards and 27 overall. The Sixers attempted 14 more shots than the Wolves did, and while they only hit 4-of-20 from deep, they converted 44-of-67 shots inside the arc, including 29 of their 47 tries from inside the paint (62%). Brett Brown’s team recorded 31 assists on 48 baskets; all but two of his players registered at least one assist. Ish Smith outplayed Ricky Rubio, and Jahlil Okafor dominated Karl-Anthony Towns, again. The Wolves couldn’t get stops, and when the Sixers did miss shots, Sam Mitchell’s bunch failed to box out. Philly made them pay.
Here is something funny and absurd to end this recap:
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) January 2, 2016
The quote at the very top of the piece sort of sums up where we’re at. It’s been a bad month, and it’s a problem. Not all the problems can be blamed on youth; there are some pretty basic things that the team just can’t do. And though I feel like a broken record, it bears repeating, again, that the offense is a problem, and it’s about more than personnel. Philadelphia doesn’t have shooters, either, but they still take threes. It’s emphasized. They’re hunting for those shots. Why? Because it’s the style used by winning teams, and it opens things up for drivers, cutters and postups. The Timberwolves just don’t do that, yet, and until they do, everyone watching with a critical eye will be left to sigh, scratch their heads, and wonder what, exactly, is being accomplished right now.