The Minnesota Timberwolves can scoot back above .500 with a win in Portland on Tuesday night.
Doing so would inch the Wolves closer to their best record in a calendar month in which they have played at least 10 games since 2010-11 (10-5; December 2017). This year’s squad is 7-4 in January.
Minnesota’s next three opponents – Golden State, Phoenix and Utah – are a combined 101-40 (.716). That approaching gauntlet makes Tuesday’s tilt against the Trail Blazers a chance to build momentum.
Lucky for the Wolves, the destination and opponent is working in their favor.
Minnesota has split six games against Portland since the start of the 2019-20 season but has taken the two most recent meetings – three points separate the Wolves and Blazers over their past three games.
The Timberwolves also are on the road, a setting where they’ve thrived – they’ve shot 48.2% from the field in their last eight road contests – in Portland, specifically, where opponents are shooting 47.4% this season, the highest rate allowed in the NBA. That clip has risen to 48.6% in games at Portland since Dec. 1.
Multiple players and particular shot selection has factored into Minnesota’s newfound success.
Point guard D'Angelo Russell is amidst one of the best months of his career. He's averaging 20.0 points and 8.0 assists per game while shooting 51.2% from the field. Denver’s Nikola Jokic is the only other player in the NBA to average 20+ points, 8+ assists and shoot better than 50% in a month this season.
Jarred Vanderbilt is another Wolves player that continues to make waves – the 22-year-old power forward is one of nine players averaging at least eight defensive and four offensive rebounds per 36 minutes. Vanderbilt’s efficiency has him on track to become the third player in franchise history to maintain those averages for an entire season (Gorgui Deng in 2013-14; Kevin Love three different times).
Minnesota’s secret weapon of late isn’t a player but rather a bevy of 3-pointers.
The Timberwolves have drained on average 14.7 triples since Jan. 1 – tied with, guess who, Portland for the second-most 3-pointers per game in the NBA (Milwaukee is knocking down a league-high 14.8).
One character who is due for an awakening is big man Karl-Anthony Towns. Minnesota’s All-Star center is trudging through one of the worst months from outside the arc of his seven-year career.
KAT hasn’t found his stroke from deep since the calendar flipped from 2021 to 2022 – he’s shooting just 31.8% from 3-point land in January. He was worse only in December 2016 when he sank 27.5% of his 3s.
Even so, playing away from home against the Trail Blazers might just be the Wolves’ recipe for success.
Statistics courtesy Sportradar