Uncategorized

Question: Do Thibs Teams Normally Stink in 4th Quarters?

This is a simple post.

This year’s Timberwolves team has been good in some ways, bad in others, and decent in others. One of the bad ways (that reared its head last night in Memphis) is 4th Quarter performance. Through 25 games the Wolves are getting outscored by 12.9 points per 100 possessions in the 4th Quarter. In terms of actual point differential in the 4th Quarter, they get outscored by an average of 3.2 per game. Only the Milwaukee Bucks are worse.

We search for explanations. Some make more sense than others. One plausible link that I see being made is between Coach Thibodeau’s penchant for playing his starters so many minutes and those starters’ late-game failures. That the players might just be tired makes logical sense, even if that’s the sort of “excuse” that Thibs would want to hear none of.

With this in mind, I went and looked back at the stats of his old Chicago Bulls teams to see if this was a trend.

Do Thibodeau Teams underperform in 4th Quarters?

Here is the year-by-year breakdown. Each team’s overall offensive, defensive, and net ratings are followed (to the right) by those measures only in the 4th Quarter. At the very far right is the net differential, measuring whether they do better or worse in the final period than in the game overall, and by how much. All stats are from nba.com.

Some things jump out when looking at that chart. First, the Bulls played unbelievably good defense under Thibs. Second, the Wolves play much worse defense under Thibs. Third, the Wolves play better offense under Thibs than the Bulls did.

But getting to that 4th Quarter Question: There isn’t much in there to support a generalized theory that Thibs Teams underperform in it. Four of his five Bulls teams played better in the fourth quarter than they did overall. Those same four teams outscored their opponents in the final quarter; two of them convincingly so. This year’s Wolves team is a major outlier on the spreadsheet with its catastrophic net rating of (-12.9) in the fourth.

Now, this doesn’t completely refute the theory that these Wolves are too tired to play well down the stretch. First, if you look at each season’s Basketball Reference page, you’ll find that the Thibs Bulls teams would play 1 or 2 starters an unreasonably-crazy-high number of minutes — Luol Deng or Jimmy Butler can be found averaging upwards of 39 minutes per game — but then 3 or so starters would average only about 30 minutes; sometimes less than 30. This year’s Wolves team is “only” led by Wiggins’s 36.9 — not quite into Deng/Bulls Jimmy territory — but the floor of the starters’ minutes is at Taj’s 33.1.

In other words, all five of them are getting a full load of playing time, and that means nobody off the bench is able to give that group a sustained injection of energy that might have been helpful on his Bulls teams.

Taking Taj himself as an example, Thibs frequently mentions how Gibson would finish games in Chicago even if he didn’t start them. One might imagine how it would help to have a fresh-legged, defensive-oriented player on the floor during the game’s most pivotal possessions. It’s possible that Taj is less effective in fourth quarters here than he was in CHI. For what it’s worth, his defensive rating jumps from 104.6 (overall) to a whopping 114.4 in the fourth quarter. (This is actually relatively good on the Wolves team — KAT’s 4th Quarter D-Rating is 117.2 and Wig’s is 120.3.) Perhaps if Bjelica played more minutes in the middle of the game, Taj would have more in the tank down the stretch.

It isn’t a crazy hypothesis at all.

But: Thibs already had that reputation well established in Chicago; the one about playing his key guys way too many minutes, burning them out, etc. etc. And despite all of that, his teams were often times good or even great when the game was on the line. If the Wolves are screwing up fourth quarters due to fatigue, it would be a new thing for a Thibs team.

Share this because Rubio would pass this along:

6 thoughts on “Question: Do Thibs Teams Normally Stink in 4th Quarters?

  1. Thanks for digging into this, Andy. I get that it’s become popular in the comment section here at AWAW to bash Thibs and blame him for all of the TPup’s woes, but I think this article makes a great point — there’s not much of a bench. I’d also point out that two of our best players are still young and have a lot (emphasis on a lot) of growing to do before they hit their primes. I’m enjoying the ride, and better-than-.500-basketball for the first time in a long time.

    1. Part of the reason that there is no bench is because Thibs the GM splurged on an ill fitting point guard and drafted an injured player at the one position that they actually had a little depth. Thibs can’t use a weak bench as an excuse as he is the reason it is so weak. The Wolves have 3 quality bench players. Dieng, Bjelica, and Tyus Jones. All 3 he inherited, and does not give near enough minutes.

      I know it is early and hindsight is easy, but for the sake of argument lets say that Instead of ending up with Teague, Patton, and Crawford it was Rubio, CJ Miles, and Anunoby. That leaves the wolves 2 deep at each spot and each bench player is able to contribute 15-24 minutes.

      Also if Thibs would stagger his starters and let the bench play more with them they would look far better than they do right now.

      I dislike Thibs the gm far more than Thibs the coach, but I could do without both.

  2. I dug into the minutes that the top 8 players played for Thib’s teams and came up with the % per quarter based on the total minutes played a game. Looking at these, there isn’t much of a change with the breakdown of minutes for ever body. But it’d be interesting to compare our core vs other teams cores throughout the years, as now days we get every other team to pair starters with bench players and spread out minutes differently.

    It’s a little tough to read due to pasting issues within this comment section, but take alook if intersted.

    Season Player Minutes Per Game 1st Qtr % of Total 2nd Qtr % of Total 3rd Qtr % of Total 4th Qtr % of Total
    2010-2011 Luol Deng 39.1 11.7 29.9% 7 17.9% 11.9 30.4% 8.6 22.0%
    Derrick Rose 37.4 11.7 31.3% 6.2 16.6% 11.6 31.0% 8.2 21.9%
    Joakim Noah 32.8 10.2 31.1% 6.6 20.1% 9.8 29.9% 7.4 22.6%
    Carlos Boozer 31.9 8.7 27.3% 7.3 22.9% 9.7 30.4% 7.5 23.5%
    Ronnie Brewer 22 4 18.2% 8.1 36.8% 3.7 16.8% 7.1 32.3%
    Taj Gibson 21.8 5.1 23.4% 6.4 29.4% 4.8 22.0% 7.2 33.0%
    Kyle Korver 20.1 2.2 10.9% 9.5 47.3% 2.1 10.4% 9.2 45.8%
    Keith Bogans 17.8 8.3 46.6% 3.7 20.8% 8.6 48.3% 3.1 17.4%

    2011-2012 Luol Deng 39.4 11.9 30.2% 7.3 18.5% 11.8 29.9% 8.8 22.3%
    Carlos Boozer 29.5 9.6 32.5% 6.3 21.4% 9 30.5% 7 23.7%
    Joakim Noah 30.4 10.5 34.5% 6.2 20.4% 8.9 29.3% 7.3 24.0%
    Ronnie Brewer 24.8 8.4 33.9% 6.1 24.6% 8 32.3% 5.4 21.8%
    Kyle Korver 22.6 4.1 18.1% 8.8 38.9% 3.7 16.4% 8.8 38.9%
    Derrick Rose 35.2 10.8 30.7% 6.4 18.2% 10.8 30.7% 9.1 25.9%
    Taj Gibson 20.4 2.9 14.2% 6.5 31.9% 3.5 17.2% 8 39.2%
    CJ Watson 23.7 8.5 35.9% 5.9 24.9% 8 33.8% 6.6 27.8%

    2012-2013 Luol Deng 38.7 11.7 30.2% 7.1 18.3% 11.5 29.7% 8.8 22.7%
    Carlos Boozer 32.2 9.8 30.4% 7.1 22.0% 10 31.1% 7.2 22.4%
    Joakim Noah 36.8 11 29.9% 7.5 20.4% 10.8 29.3% 8.6 23.4%
    Jimmy Butler 26 5.9 22.7% 8.3 31.9% 6 23.1% 9.2 35.4%
    Nate Robinson 25.4 6.5 25.6% 8.7 34.3% 6 23.6% 8.3 32.7%
    Marco Belinelli 25.8 5.8 22.5% 8.4 32.6% 6.9 26.7% 8.4 32.6%
    Kirk Hinrich 29.4 9.9 33.7% 5.5 18.7% 9.9 33.7% 6.3 21.4%
    Taj Gibson 22.5 3.8 16.9% 7.7 34.2% 3.7 16.4% 8.2 36.4%

    2013-2014 Joakim Noah 35.2 8.7 24.7% 7.2 20.5% 8.9 25.3% 10.4 29.5%
    Jimmy Butler 38.7 11 28.4% 7.8 20.2% 11.3 29.2% 9.7 25.1%
    Mike Dunleavy 31.5 8.8 27.9% 6.9 21.9% 9.5 30.2% 6.8 21.6%
    Taj Gibson 28.7 4.4 15.3% 9.1 31.7% 4.3 15.0% 10.3 35.9%
    Carlos Boozer 28.2 11.6 41.1% 4.8 17.0% 11.4 40.4% 4.6 16.3%
    Kirk Hinrich 29 7.9 27.2% 5.7 19.7% 8.1 27.9% 7.8 26.9%
    DJ Augustin 30.4 4.9 16.1% 10.2 33.6% 4.9 16.1% 10.5 34.5%
    Tony Snell 16 5.5 34.4% 6.6 41.3% 5.8 36.3% 5.7 35.6%

    2014-2015 Pau Gasol 34.4 11.7 34.0% 5.5 16.0% 11.7 34.0% 5.4 15.7%
    Jimmy Butler 38.7 11.1 28.7% 7.9 20.4% 11.3 29.2% 8.8 22.7%
    Joakim Noah 30.6 7.8 25.5% 7.2 23.5% 7.9 25.8% 8.3 27.1%
    Aaron Brooks 23 5 21.7% 6.4 27.8% 5.1 22.2% 7.6 33.0%
    Mike Dunleavy 29.2 10.4 35.6% 5.6 19.2% 10.2 34.9% 5.7 19.5%
    Taj Gibson 27.3 5.8 21.2% 8.3 30.4% 5.6 20.5% 8.5 31.1%
    Nikola Mirotic 20.2 3.7 18.3% 7.9 39.1% 3.7 18.3% 8.3 41.1%
    Derrick Rose 30 8.4 28.0% 6.8 22.7% 8.8 29.3% 7.3 24.3%

    2015-2016 Jimmy Butler 36.9 11 29.8% 7.2 19.5% 10.7 29.0% 8.2 22.2%
    Pau Gasol 31.8 10 31.4% 6.4 20.1% 9.6 30.2% 6 18.9%
    Derrick Rose 31.8 8.2 25.8% 8.3 26.1% 8 25.2% 7.9 24.8%
    Taj Gibson 26.5 6.5 24.5% 7.2 27.2% 6.2 23.4% 7.8 29.4%
    Doug McDermott 23 4.2 18.3% 7.1 30.9% 5.1 22.2% 8.4 36.5%
    Nikola Mirotic 24.9 6.9 27.7% 6.1 24.5% 7 28.1% 6.4 25.7%
    Tony Snell 20.3 6.1 30.0% 4.7 23.2% 6.8 33.5% 6 29.6%
    E’Twaun Moore 21.4 6.5 30.4% 6.5 30.4% 6.6 30.8% 7 32.7%

    2016-2017 Andrew Wiggins 37.2 11.8 31.7% 6.4 17.2% 11.7 31.5% 7.7 20.7%
    Towns 37 9.9 26.8% 8.4 22.7% 9.7 26.2% 9.1 24.6%
    Dieng 32.4 10.4 32.1% 6.9 21.3% 10.1 31.2% 6.2 19.1%
    Rubio 32.9 10.1 30.7% 6.3 19.1% 10.1 30.7% 7.4 22.5%
    LaVine 37.2 8.1 21.8% 11 29.6% 8.4 22.6% 9.7 26.1%
    Muhammad 19.4 3.6 18.6% 6.5 33.5% 3.9 20.1% 7.1 36.6%
    Dunn 17.1 3.4 19.9% 6.1 35.7% 3.7 21.6% 6.1 35.7%
    Bjelica 18.3 3.1 16.9% 6.1 33.3% 3.5 19.1% 6.6 36.1%

    2017-2018 Wiggins 36.9 11.9 32.2% 6.2 16.8% 11.6 31.4% 7 19.0%
    Towns 34.6 7.9 22.8% 9 26.0% 7.9 22.8% 9.6 27.7%
    Butler 36.7 9.5 25.9% 8.4 22.9% 9.9 27.0% 8.6 23.4%
    Taj Gibson 33.1 10.2 30.8% 6.4 19.3% 10.1 30.5% 6.6 19.9%
    Teague 33.9 10.2 30.1% 6.7 19.8% 10.3 30.4% 6.8 20.1%
    Tyus Jones 17.6 3.5 19.9% 5.8 33.0% 3.7 21.0% 5.4 30.7%
    Jamal Crawford 17.5 2.7 15.4% 6.1 34.9% 2.8 16.0% 6.6 37.7%
    Dieng 16.9 4.3 25.4% 5 29.6% 4.1 24.3% 4.1 24.3%

  3. What’s amazing to me is that we’ve added Butler and Gibson and our offense and defensive rating in the 4th quarter is worse than last year. To me, that means bad coaching.

    Our offense doesn’t have a lot of ball movement and doesn’t create many open looks. Guys have to work hard for their shots throughout the game. So in the 4th, our guys aren’t as fresh and it’s harder to create those good shots. Plus the defense knows how to adjust to us after halftime.

    Defensively, it’s a disaster. Towns doesn’t play D. Wiggins is giving more effort but still has a long way to go. Teague is mediocre at best. Our rotations are terrible. No one seems to know who to cover when someone drives to the hoop. This team doesn’t look coached on D at all through 25 games. We’re still having the same issues. That screams bad coaching to me.

  4. Not much of a bench? Thibs’ fault. Poor use of what bench we have? Thibs’ fault. He hardly has an excuse for the minutes quandary.

    What is surprising in Andy’s stats is how well the Chicago teams handled 4th quarters, but as he points out, the team was handled a little different with 2 guys getting a ton of minutes and everyone else getting a reasonable amount. What is striking is that the outlier isn’t this season. It’s Thibs in MN. The clear simple conclusion: he has no idea how to coach the guys he has here (even after a year customizing the team from the front office). It would be one thing is this basic concept were true after he walked into a super young team with no vets as he tried to coach them up over the long haul. But this season he’s starting an ex all star vet, a vet big and a vet PG, all hand picked with bench pieces he picked, too.

    The bigger issue is the fact that Thib’s huge starter minutes are such a giant outlier in the league. It’s just not how any other guys are coaching. How will this affect the team? Something to wonder about is how it contributes to our crashes in the 4th. I tend to think it is a factor, but there are other factors (many also related to Thibs’ coaching). But it is not the only way the huge minutes may affect the team. Off the top of my head others include: long term and increasing fatigue as the season goes on, underdeveloped bench with no chance to develop it enough as we head to end of season, possibility of more injuries (major or simply more bumped up guys at 75%), and a strategic reliance on a few guys (next man up ineptitude).

  5. After a year and 1/3 of a season, it is obvious that Thibs is not the great coach we expected when Glen hired him. However, after 13 years of Timberpup basketball, where defense was suspect for most of the game and not just the fourth, he has tried to instill the same toughness as his old Bulls teams, but with little results. As much as I think Thibs is a sham for a coach, I don’t know if we have a choice, but to ride along for another year.

    The trouble is he doesn’t have those type of players he had in Chicago and he needs to adapt to the team he has created. His use of cap space the last two seasons and his continuation of not taking the best player available in the draft has created a cap hell that only becomes more solidified in the next two years. He added nothing from last year free agency that improved the team, and this year he played his hand so quickly, that he had no money for the dozen players that were left to scramble for minimum contracts that would have given Thibs lots of options for his bench. He gave his first round pick away, traded back this year’s pick to get Butler and got a first round pick next year, only if OKC, gets into the playoffs. Otherwise, you better like this team, because that and a late 2nd round pick is all you got for 2018-19.

    With no bench it is difficult to push these starters to do things differently, because you don’t have a bench to push the starters for minutes. Now some great coaches develop a bench, so they can limit minutes of starters that aren’t playing hard. He just barely gives Tyus, Gorghi and Crawford minutes, so with Belly out and Baz in the doghouse, the starters can be as lazy, selfish, and one dimensional as they want and all they have to endure is Thibs foul mouthed ranting on the sideline. Even if he wanted to trade a bench player, what team would give him anything for a group of guys that have basically watched the games for most of the year.

    His game management is about as poor as his team’s focus on defense and offense in the fourth. He has not learned how to properly manage his time outs, so he can give his team a rest before the 3:00 mark and not waste the them. If you are going to log heavy minutes, you need to give your guys a blow before the game gets tight. With the minutes he uses his starters, he should be the king of the 3:02 time out. His specialty plays out of a time out are also neither clever or effective.

    Thibs seems to have no other trick up his sleeve. He came here thinking he could get KAT and Wiggins to be stars and then add his guys and then play slow, isolation ball, and get after it with defense. Well, the defense is marginally better, the offense is stagnate and he is getting out coached by JB Bickerstaff in addition to the good coaches in the league. His team relies on being better athletes than the opponent, so even poor teams give them a run for their money. They don’t stick to a moving, passing game, reverting to “me ball” as the game wears on and they haven’t scored their points that night. They are currently in fourth place in the West, but we haven’t played the best much yet. We haven’t played the best in the East much yet and so things will need to change or my guess is that next year, attendance will be hurting and we will be onto another coaching change.

Leave a Reply