The early season of basketball masochism is officially over.
Nearly an entire month of turning on your TV and feeling like Vito Corleone later, the Minnesota Timberwolves have won four-straight games.
There have been a couple bugaboos that have gotten a little bit better, and some remain. Head Coach Chris Finch has maintained it’s still a work in progress, but who said winning is bad?
Boo Birds Not Flying South Yet
While brief, Monday evening against the Miami Heat marked the third home game in a row that boos were had by the fans in the direction of the team. Last night was absolutely not as bad, nor was it an inevitable loss in which they were losing by 20+ points and get outplayed in every facet, including effort. Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards had words about it postgame...
I followed up asking if Gobert thought that the boos came from higher expectations from the fans. “I appreciate when they cheer, but I hope they support us in tough moments, too.” pic.twitter.com/mUEbt8y3L5— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) November 22, 2022
Anthony Edwards: "I love the crowd, man. Tell them, Hey y’all, if y’all listening to this, keep coming, showing us love, stop booing us. We’re going to give you everything we got, man. We trying.”— Jace frederick (@JaceFrederick) November 22, 2022
I’ll preface in saying I completely get where Gobert is coming from. The idea for fans is to support, and ideally that is usually what happens.
But man, I couldn’t wholeheartedly disagree with someone more. Mistakes are going to happen, assignments are going to be blown, and that’s understandable. The team’s chemistry is young, and sometimes that shows on film.
But that’s not what was happening. That’s not what was getting booed.
There are three players on this team that currently make more than 30 million dollars per year. There will be at least one more in that company very soon. Fans usually make less than that, and spend it to come watch you play. You can lose games. You can lose games by 20! But asking people to only keep their emotions in check if they’re negative when you’re downright not trying is impossible, and frankly a frustrating perspective.
Sure, you only got booed in Utah a couple of times because you had a large sample size of being a top-five seed. Before these last four games, things looked to be heading towards utter disaster. After trading 5 (five) first round picks. Hopefully I’m not in the minority here.
Finch summed things up pretty well in 12 words.
So What’s Going Right?
With a little more hustle comes getting rebounds that weren’t previously had.
From October 30 through November 11, the infamous 1-6 stretch, the Wolves were 29th in the league in rebounding percentage.
In the last four, things look a little bit different...
From 29th to 11th in rebound percentage - pretty good?
While the margin in the category between the top and bottom isn’t incredibly large, it’s a sign that possessions are ending at a better rate for the opposition, and that’s been the heart of the issue for awhile.
Another thing that contributes to the rise is the increase in shotmaking, and limiting the rebounding opportunities. Last week, I talked about the Wolves’ inadequacies in making open shots.
In the last four games, Minnesota is sixth in 3-point attempts per game with a defender within 4-6 feet, and fifth in percentage (considered “open” 3s).
This Week At A Glance
Here are a few quick-hitting storylines to pay attention to:
- Wednesday marks a meeting with the streaking Indiana Pacers, another team that’s taken advantage of injury-plagued teams (two of their five wins in a row have come against the Magic). Barring anything crazy, it’ll be the first team in awhile the Wolves meet up with that is not injury-plagued. A matchup to watch? Anthony Edwards vs. red-hot rookie Bennedict Mathurin.
- For the first time since the game against the Memphis Grizzlies, D’Angelo Russel dropped single-digit points against the Heat on Monday. He rebounded from Memphis with his 30 and 12 game in Cleveland. How does he do this time?
- The next home game for the Wolves is Sunday against the Golden State Warriors, a presumed sellout. If a deficit finds its way on the board, do the fans make it four games in a row with boo birds? Or do they respond positively to comments from the players, as they did with D’Angelo Russell last season?