The best offense is a great defense.
That holds true for the Minnesota Timberwolves this season.
Minnesota makes life hard on opponents with three elite scorers – Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell, when they’re healthy and on the floor – but defense and winning on the offensive glass separates the pack, in some phases, from the rest of the NBA.
The Timberwolves are scoring 18.3 percent of their points off turnovers, the highest rate in the league this season. Jarred Vanderbilt, who scores the highest percentage of his points off turnovers (26.9%) on the team, also leads Minnesota with 3.1 offensive rebounds per game.
Vanderbilt, nicknamed “V8” because of his jersey number – which makes us think of the refreshing fruit and vegetable beverage by the same name – has set the tone for a team that attacks its shots with relentless, if you will, juice.
The Timberwolves are among the NBA's best units when it comes to collecting their own misses. They've secured at least 10 offensive boards in 31 contests this season – only Memphis can claim more such performances (35).
Second-chance opportunities and pressuring the ball will be crucial but possibly hard to come by in Wednesday night’s clash against Oklahoma City – the first of a back-to-back set against the Thunder spread across three days.
Oklahoma City has cut down on its mistakes during a 4-4 stretch, coughing the ball up fewer than 15 times total in its last eight contests. That streak stands atop the NBA.
Crowding the lane will be imperative, too, for the Wolves against a group that leans similarly on analytics to run its offense. Minnesota and the Thunder opt for 3-point shots or looks at the rim on 78.6% and 77.5% of their field goals. They’ve practically axed the jumper from their arsenals.
Interestingly, those figures are divided up differently. OKC boasts the league’s second-highest layup attempt rate (30.8%), while 3-pointers comprise 45.5% of Minnesota’s shot selection.
Clamping down near the basket and assaulting the offensive glass Wednesday night will go a long ways toward helping the Timberwolves notch their second straight win and improve upon a 1-5 record against the Thunder since the start of the 2019-20 season.
Tune in to “Wolves Live” at 6:30 p.m. on Bally Sports North for the latest on Minnesota.
– Malik Beasley has drilled three or more 3-pointers in nine consecutive games and is one game shy of the Timberwolves' franchise record for the longest such streak, shared by himself and Towns. You can read more about Beasley’s rising confidence in this week’s stock report.
– Thunder shooting guard Josh Giddey made history his last time out, becoming the youngest player (19 years, 84 days) to register a triple-double. Giddey, the 6th overall pick of the 2021 draft, recorded 17 points, 13 rebounds and 14 assists against the Mavericks on Jan. 2.
– Here’s a fun one for you: Sophomore superstar Anthony Edwards is on track to become the seventh player in NBA history to average at least 20 points and one or more 3-pointers per game at 20 years old or younger. Want to feel aged? Edwards was born in 2001. Oh, and his 3.1 treys per game is the most in NBA history by a player in their age 20 season or younger. Yup, more than Luka Doncic, Devin Booker, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
– Oklahoma City welcomes Shai Gilgeous-Alexander back into its lineup after he cleared health and safety protocols Monday. The Thunder are 13-18 with the fourth-year point guard, who is averaging 22.7 points per game, in the lineup and 0-5 when he’s absent.
Statistics courtesy Sportradar