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Wolves 112, Hornets 94: Making A Statement

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The Wolves won their fifth straight game with authority.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Minnesota Timberwolves Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves are on fire.

Tonight’s 112-94 drubbing of the Charlotte Hornets marks the team’s fifth straight win, the longest winning streak for the franchise in the past eight years.

Minnesota’s offensive output has been superb during the winning streak, averaging 114.4 points per game and shooting 48.5 percent from the field.

Charlotte entered Sunday night allowing just 103.9 points per 100 possessions (12th-lowest in the NBA) and a field goal percentage of 42.5% (third-lowest in the NBA). The Wolves, however, were not phased and came out firing on all cylinders early and often en route to a statement win.

Jeff Teague set the tone for the Wolves, logging his best game as a Wolf on both ends of the floor. He was especially efficient offensively in the pick-and-roll game, utilizing subtle fakes and hesitations to create passing lanes for rollers all night. He finished with 12 assists—seven of which came in the first quarter—to go with his 18 points and 4-for-5 performance from beyond the arc. The double-double is Teague’s fourth in five games.

Defensively, Teague put the clamps down on Hornets dynamo Kemba Walker. Walker connected on just four of his 15 shot attempts and finished with nine points, putting pressure on the rest of the Hornets to step up and produce on the offensive end.

Andrew Wiggins capped a terrific two-game homestand with another efficient outing. He scored 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting, including a stretch of nine straight points in the third quarter, to lead the Wolves in the scoring column. Wiggins has now scored 43 points on 17-for-26 shooting in his last two games.

Jamal Crawford once again provided a spark off the bench scoring 11 first-half points. Additionally, Gorgui Dieng added a double-double off the bench with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson continued their brilliance in the “little things” of the game. They each initiated defensive rotations effectively throughout the game and were the catalysts of another strong defensive effort. Tom Thibodeau’s defensive scheme is starting to settle in with his team—the key is that, apparently, it requires both Butler and Gibson active for it to work.

Through ten games, Butler appears content sacrificing offensive statistical performance for a higher emphasis on defense. That sacrifice isn’t necessarily surprising given what we know about Butler. But that sacrifice is paying large dividends. Thus far, Minnesota has been highly productive offensively despite somewhat underwhelming offensive output from Butler. His impact on defense, however, is not going unnoticed, and tonight’s game is another example.

Fact: The Timberwolves are now 7-1 in games when Jimmy Butler is active.

Any doubts about Minnesota’s hot offensive start being a fluke can now be refuted. The production continued without a hiccup against a stingy defensive team in the Hornets. Dwight Howard, the main cog to Charlotte’s defensive success this season, was essentially a non-factor in the paint—except for the technical foul he was assessed for—as he finished with one block, four turnovers and a +/- figure of -13.

The Timberwolves made a statement on Sunday outplaying the Hornets for nearly all 48 minutes. Their 7-3 record is good for No. 2 in the Western Conference. If you haven’t gotten excited about this season yet, now is the time.

Next up: the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. An opportunity to make another statement.

Quick Notes

  • Karl-Anthony Towns’ defense is starting to turn a corner. He made a number of nice plays against the Hornets and looks especially comfortable switching onto guards.
  • Nemanja Bjelica is still the leading three-point shooter in the NBA after not missing from outside tonight (he didn’t make one either, but, whatever).
  • The Timberwolves are four games above .500 for the first time in over 10 years. That’s ten years. January 2007. The Kevin Garnett era. Man, this franchise is so due for some winning.