Wolves are sharing the ball like a playoff team
MINNEAPOLIS--The theory that less is more can be true for a lot of things. Passing isn't one of them. Not in basketball, where the more you can move the ball and rotate a defense, the better the shot that will come from it. The better the shots y...
MINNEAPOLIS-The theory that less is more can be true for a lot of things. Passing isn't one of them.
Not in basketball, where the more you can move the ball and rotate a defense, the better the shot that will come from it. The better the shots you take, the more likely you are to win.
Over their past 10 games, the Wolves are averaging 25.6 assists a game - the fourth-best mark in the NBA in that span. Their shooting percentage in that span is 48.9 percent, fifth best in the league.
By no coincidence, Minnesota is 6-4 over its past 10 games, a far cry from its 11-25 mark over the first 36 games.
Assists often correlate to wins.
Golden State, the best team in basketball, leads the NBA with more than 31 assists per game. Boston and Houston, the two other teams averaging more than 25, are in the top three of their respective conference standings.
"It just means you have good continuity," Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine said. "You're sharing the ball well, everything is flowing and it means you're getting open shots, or easy shots."
That's why coach Tom Thibodeau and Co. have set a goal for the Wolves to try to record at least 25 assists each game. Nineteen times the Wolves have reached that goal; their record in those games is 11-8.
"I think the willingness to share the ball, and that shows connection," Thibodeau said. "We talk about that all the time, to be connected both offensively and defensively, and I think the assists, that shows you that. I think when we make quick decisions and we don't hold onto it, we don't dance with it, good things happen for us."
It's easier to make quick, sound decisions when you're confident you know where you're supposed to go with the ball. That confidence comes from experience in a given system. Minnesota continues to gain that each game it plays under Thibodeau.
"In the beginning, everybody is trying to do the right thing," point guard Ricky Rubio said. "But sometimes you've got to play with a little more freedom, and we finally clicked. Sometimes you need that, and we've been playing much better as a team."
It starts with Karl-Anthony Towns, double-teamed throughout the season, kicking out to open teammates from the post. Sometimes that one pass leads to an easy shot, but more often than not, it's the swing pass after that that leads to the correct shot.
Players such as Shabazz Muhammad, Andrew Wiggins and LaVine are starting to make that extra pass on a regular basis, and the Wolves' offense is better for it.
"As long as we keep moving the ball, particularly against any low-post double-team or the blitz of the pick and roll, the second pass will usually get you a real high-percentage shot," Thibodeau said. "So I think if we continue to do that, the assists will be high."
As recent results suggest, the win totals will be, too.
"All those great teams are having 30-plus assists a game," Rubio said, "and that's what we're looking for."