It’s a Friday night, and there’s no reason to spend more effort on this site tonight than the Wolves themselves gave in Chicago.
Yeah, the offense looks like it can be as potent as we thought it could be in the off-season. Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns look great getting downhill. D’Angelo Russell fills in a lot of playmaking gaps, and Malik Beasley’s shot is coming around.
But none of that will matter if the Timberwolves lose sight of what kept their season afloat early on.
There are a variety of x’s and o’s related reasons to explain bad defense, and surely, the Wolves defense is getting shredded lately in part due to the x’s and o’s (or Jimmy’s and Joe’s). What personnel and scheme can not cover up for, though, is the despicable effort shown by this team on the less glamorous end of the floor lately, culminating with the 134 points they gave up tonight.
It’s easy to blame one or two guys, and believe me, it’s not hard to single out a few of them, but the problems run deeper than that.
We knew heading into the season that this roster wasn’t littered with elite defenders, but they made up for it early in the season with stellar communication, contagious effort, and a willingness to take advantage of their supreme athleticism. It feels like it has been weeks since Minnesota has done any of that.
If nothing else, this team should communicate. That is, quite literally, the bare minimum required to be a competent defensive team. Even without giving overwhelming effort/energy, you can generally field a competent defensive team if you communicate with your teammates. This was something the Wolves excelled at early in the season, led by Patrick Beverley and D’Angelo Russell.
Tonight, you saw far too many communication-based breakdowns, whether it be a cutter finding an easy lane to the rim, or a PnR coverage gone wild that yields an easy layup. It drives a fan nuts. This team must demand better from themselves if they want to compete with good teams.
I’ll admit DeMar DeRozan (35 points) made tough shots, but that’s what star players do. The Wolves best players do that, too, when they’re playing well. What is unacceptable is the easy, free lanes to the rim, and letting multiple role players explode. Minnesota cannot surrender 45 points to Javonte Green and Coby White and expect to win. It’s as simple as that.
This team may be a few games above .500, and they should feel accomplished about that, but they still have a long, long ways to go. A few of their players desperately need the All-Star Break, and I guess we can only hope that they come back with a renewed focus on the defensive end.
Anything less than that will spell an early end to the season for Minnesota.