Between Charlotte’s barrage of three-pointers last week and Washington’s consistent waltzes on Wednesday, Minnesota’s defense has shown a few more cracks of late.
This is not surprising for two reasons. Number 1, Wolves are still without veteran guard Patrick Beverly, a defensive specialist. Number 2, they are playing the better team with more chances to highlight the weaker teams. It won’t be diminishing anytime soon.
More specifically, the Timberwolves will face bigger crimes going forward. Their next three rivals are the Nets, whom Minnesota meets on Friday in Brooklyn, Atlanta and Utah. They are the NBA’s top three offenses in the last 10 games.
Seven of Minnesota’s next 10 games are against opponents with top-six offenses in the last 10 games.
To Wolves’ credit, their superior defense has already successfully limited top-10 offenses over the season in Milwaukee, Miami, Philadelphia and Phoenix. But the likes of Charlotte and Golden State—the only two top-five offenses they’ve played to date—fitted them.
And defending without Beverly just makes the challenge even bigger. Minnesota hasn’t been a splurge since Beverly went down with a groin injury that is expected to be reevaluated next weekend, but it’s notable two of Wolves’ worst defensive performances ever – last week The Wizards – in Charlotte and in Wednesday’s loss – have come without Beverly in the lineup.
“Don’t think we played with enough effort. I think we came a little too slow,” Karl-Anthony Towns said after Wednesday’s defensive clashes, in which Minnesota allowed 18 dunks. “I think we had a lot of things going on, but there was no excuse. We have to go out there and play Timberwolves basketball. Like I said, we talk about the team we say we want to be And that comes with consistency, and it’s one of those games that we have to keep up with.”
The same will be true going forward. While the Wolves have been solid defensively for most of the season, potential misses don’t often show up against the likes of San Antonio, Sacramento or New Orleans. Any hole in Minnesota’s defense is likely to be exposed in the ensuing stretch.
“That’s what we wanted. This is the challenge we wanted,” said Wolves forward Jared Vanderbilt. “It’s just to lock up, try the same thing every night and give ourselves the best chance every night.”
This is the key to excelling defensively in the NBA – you have to be able to bring it on a nightly basis. The improved defensive effort has been a big surprise for the team during the first quarter of the season. But the quality of incoming opponents will be enough to sabotage a lot of defenses.
Will the wolves rise to the challenge? Minnesota coach Chris Finch said that if the Wolves are trying to do what they want to do and where they want to go, “you have to play and beat these teams.”
And you have to defend against them, even if you’re one of their best defenders.
This challenge may worry some people. But, to no one’s surprise, it doesn’t belong to second-year guard Anthony Edwards.
He said, ‘We have nothing to worry about. “We are as good as every other team in the league, so I don’t think this month will be a tough one at all. We are as good as any team you can name.”