Despite lack of scoring, Timberwolves’ offense took a step forward in loss to Boston
Minnesota shot 44% from the field, but the team’s 27 assists told a story of progress
MINNEAPOLIS — The numbers suggest Minnesota struggled offensively Wednesday against Boston. The Timberwolves scored just 102 points while shooting 44% from the field and 33% from 3-point range.
Certainly, shot-making is what cost the Timberwolves a chance to pull off a key home victory over a great, motivated Celtics team.
But the stats didn’t match the eye test of the offensive performance Minnesota put forth. The telling number comes in the assist category. The Wolves finished with 27 assists of their 37 made buckets.
Minnesota generated good looks, as well. Twenty-one of Minnesota’s 36 shots from beyond the arc were “wide open,” as characterized by NBA.com, while 10 more were “open.” Forty-seven of Minnesota’s 84 attempts from the field were either “wide open” or “open.”
The shots were good and came in the rhythm of the offense. They just didn’t fall.
“We just couldn’t make some timely shots,” coach Chris Finch lamented. “We had chances to control the game with good looks we couldn’t make.”
Still, that’s major progress against a good defensive team that can go so switch-heavy. Last week, the Timberwolves struggled to decipher similar looks from the likes of Philadelphia and Brooklyn. Their switching defenses caused stagnancy in Minnesota’s offense. It had no such effect Wednesday. Mike Conley said that was a credit to the mindset Minnesota carried into the contest.
“It was not to just iso(late), not to just take a contested 2 or something like that just because you beat your man. (It was) thinking next play, next pass,” Conley said. “We’ve got guys that can beat people off the dribble; now can you hit the open guy, and can that guy now make another drive and make another play? So, it’s a multiple-effort game.”
That all starts with Anthony Edwards, through whom the entire offense runs. The 21-year-old was susceptible in recent games to getting a switch and then dribbling the air out of the ball in search of his own shot. Edwards had a grand total of three assists in the losses to Brooklyn and Philadelphia.
On Wednesday, Edwards finished with seven dimes to go with his efficient 27-point outing.
“I thought he did a great job, really. I mean, all night,” Finch said. “I thought he did a really good job after the first, like, five or six minutes once he realized what the defense was going to look like. He was trying to play with good patience when he was driving.”
That’s an important development for Minnesota because while there are only a few teams in the NBA who can trot out lineups capable of consistently switching matchups against all screening actions, those are generally the top teams you need to be able to contend with to win anything of consequence.
“We’re gonna face teams like this when it matters most,” Conley said, “and I was proud of the way we adjusted this game as opposed to other games we’ve played against switching teams.”
The NBA’s last two-minute report from Wednesday’s game cited four errors in the final six seconds.
According to the report, a foul should have been called on Jaden McDaniels on the play in which Grant Williams lost the ball under the hoop. On the ensuing loose ball, Rudy Gobert touched the ball while positioned out of bounds, at which point it should have been Boston’s ball on an inbounds.
Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla should have been called for a technical foul for running onto the floor while attempting to call a timeout during the tie-up situation. Williams should have been whistled for a violation for not allowing the ball to reach its peak on the ensuing jump ball.
This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.