Believe it or not, Timberwolves are playing good defense
MINNEAPOLIS -- It is a jarring statistic, one that's hard to believe is true. Over the past month, the Timberwolves have allowed 104.6 points per 100 possessions -- the sixth best mark in the NBA. Yes, Minnesota, which couldn't stop anybody from ...
MINNEAPOLIS - It is a jarring statistic, one that's hard to believe is true.
Over the past month, the Timberwolves have allowed 104.6 points per 100 possessions - the sixth best mark in the NBA.
Yes, Minnesota, which couldn't stop anybody from doing anything for the first 50 days of the season - sporting the 28th-ranked defense during that span - has a top 10 defense over the past 30.
For Timberwolves fans reading that, it probably feels like stepping to the light for the first time after months spent in darkness. Go ahead, give your eyes some time to adjust before looking back at the page.
Tom Thibodeau's orchestra finally appears to be playing the right tune. Look closely and you can see the defensive mastermind's fingerprints settling into his young roster's playing style.
"We've put a lot of time into individual development with individual technique and the team schemes," Thibodeau said. "And you never have it where it's all figured out."
But this looks a lot closer to what you'd expect from a Tom Thibodeau-coached team.
And while players insisted they had a firm grasp of the system back when the season started, Karl-Anthony Towns admitted they might have a better understanding midway through the campaign.
"Is it just better understanding of the defense," Towns said. "I think for us, it's just getting in tune with the system and trusting each other on defense, understanding where we're all going to be. And just going from there, having that trust factor. We want to play good defense."
They look capable of doing so.
Players such as Nemanja Bjelica and Shabazz Muhammad were considered defensive liabilities before the season started. Those two currently carry the team's two best defensive ratings, meaning Minnesota's defense is at its best when they're on the floor.
The Wolves are allowing just 87 points per 100 possessions with Muhammad on the floor over the last two weeks - that's the third-best mark in the league among players averaging more than 20 minutes a game.
Muhammad touted all of the coaching staff's work on technique and scheme.
"When you're not playing the ball, you have to understand that's not rest time," Thibodeau said. "You have to be thinking help, and what you can do next. It requires multiple effort. It requires concentration. If you take a play off, it's going to be bad for all of us. It only takes one guy not doing their job to create an opportunity for your opponent. We have to continue to work at that. I think we have improved in that area and I think the way we practice helps us."
After Wednesday's victory over Houston, one of the NBA's best offensive teams, Thibodeau said problems aren't fixed in one game. At times, he still sees his defense a step behind the opponent, but acknowledged that comes with inexperience.
"I think the more that you do it in games, the better you get at it," Thibodeau said. "And I think our players have an understanding of how important it is not to take any plays off, and to understand the difference between the first three quarters and the first quarter and the discipline that's required. So everyone has to have a good understanding of what we're trying to do and what their job is and then committing to doing it together."
At practice Thursday, Thibodeau looked and sounded like a coach happy with what his team is doing, which hasn't always been the case this season. Thibodeau sees his team moving in the right direction, which, after a challenging start to his first season on the job, has to be a satisfying feeling.
"We want to get back, get set, keep the ball out of the paint, challenge shots correctly and then finish with the rebound," Thibodeau said. "And when we do that, we're pretty good at it. I can see that we've improved."