Wolves still waiting for O to catch up to D
MINNEAPOLIS -- Coach Dwane Casey's pledge to make the Minnesota Timberwolves a stronger defensive team has paid some dividends so far this season. But after all that work, there is plenty more to be done on the other end of the floor. "Bottom lin...
MINNEAPOLIS -- Coach Dwane Casey's pledge to make the Minnesota Timberwolves a stronger defensive team has paid some dividends so far this season.
But after all that work, there is plenty more to be done on the other end of the floor.
"Bottom line in this league is you've got to make shots, especially in the fourth quarter," said small forward Wally Szczerbiak, one of several players struggling to find a rhythm.
"We're not doing it. I'm not doing it. We can put forth as much of an effort as we want on defense, but teams who can shoot well are going to score points -- and we've got to execute. We're getting open looks. We're just not making them."
Minnesota's 94-89 loss at home to Houston on Tuesday provided plenty of evidence. The Wolves went six straight possessions without scoring down the stretch, including Szczerbiak's missed 3-pointer with 2:18 left after Tracy McGrady had given the Rockets a one-point lead on a long jumper.
Troy Hudson's heave from behind the arc with 44 seconds remaining and Minnesota trailing by five fell short, too, after another disorganized offensive set.
All-Star Kevin Garnett is doing his usual thing underneath, averaging 21.3 points through seven games.
But the Timberwolves' two best shooters -- Szczerbiak (39.1 percent field goal shooting) and Hudson (43.4) -- aren't providing enough spark from the outside. What hurts the most is that they've shored up their perimeter defense and held opponents to 91.6 points per game, good for ninth in the league.
"If Kevin's open in the paint," Casey said, "we've got to give it to him. Now when he kicks it out, that's a license to shoot it. That means he has double coverage. It's just a matter of knocking down shots. I have all the confidence in the world in those two guys. They will make shots. They have a reservoir to draw from. They have a history of being great shooters, and we're going to keep going to them."
Part of the offensive problem has been incorporating new teammates, with point guard Marko Jaric now distributing the ball and some others trying to establish themselves off the bench. Casey has admittedly struggled finding the right substitution patterns, and the playing time for some of his charges has fluctuated significantly so far.
The blame for this drought -- Minnesota ranked 23rd in the NBA in scoring with 93.1 points per game -- certainly does not fall only on Szczerbiak and Hudson.
Rookie Rashad McCants is barely shooting over 40 percent from the floor, and he has missed all 10 of his 3-point attempts. Eddie Griffin, an athletic, 6-foot-10 reserve forward who gravitates outside probably much more than he should, has missed 18 of 22 shots from behind the arc. And Jaric, perhaps being a bit too unselfish, hoisted only three shots against the Rockets.
"We might have some lags in the offense because we are trying to really hustle on defense," Jaric said. "I know we're going to get to that point where our legs are going to come back and we're going to be effective on both sides of the court."
Szczerbiak scoffed at the notion of that excuse, though.
"Everyone has to play defense in this league," he said. "We're doing a good job on that end, holding teams and keeping them down, but we just have to do a better job of knocking shots down when we get them. We're into the season now and everyone is going to get a little fatigued here and there, but you have to fight through that and be mentally tough."