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Timberwolves defense in need of repair after road trip

PHOENIX – Entering this road trip, the Timberwolves defense was on an upswing. They had inched up to 12th in defensive efficiency and it seemed like they were figuring things out.

Then they allowed a season high 139 points to Oklahoma City on Friday. You can explain some of that away by saying it was an overtime game, one the Wolves should’ve never let get there.

But then they followed that up by allowing another season high, 142, to the Lakers on Sunday, as Anthony Davis went for 50.

They didn’t allow another season high Monday against Phoenix, but they did allow 125 points and the Suns shot 50% from the field and 40% from three-point range.

If the Wolves are going to turn around this current five-game losing streak, it’s going to start on the defensive end of the floor.

“I’ll have to watch the film, but I thought we let out guard down early on [in the second half],” coach Ryan Saunders said. “We let Phoenix get into a rhythm. They got a little bit of energy from that and we were unable to come back.”

When asked what the Wolves needed to improve on that end of the floor – communication, understanding schemes -- Saunders didn’t hold back.

“All of the above right now. All of the above,” Saunders said. “Not a good road trip for our defense. Not a good road trip for us in general. We have things we need to clean up going home. We’ll have challenges but opportunities.”

Guard Josh Okogie was pretty clear in what he thought needed fixing.

“Just got to rebound. Finish the defense,” Okogie said.

When asked again about the defensive improvement Okogie said, “I just think we have to rebound. That’s pretty much it.”

It wasn’t a terrible night rebounding for the Wolves, who allowed 12 offensive rebounds, but the Suns did capitalize on those for 26 second-chance points.

The Wolves rate 20th in defensive rebounding percentage, or the number of available defensive rebounds they actually secure, at .724. So Okogie’s point is a good one – that number could stand to improve.

The Wolves piece together enough quality defensive possession to make a comeback in Monday’s game. The defense left them needing to play almost perfectly on the offensive end of the floor, and that wasn’t happening as the Wolves shot 6 of 22 from three-point range.

“We weren’t getting stops and they kept scoring and they got up big,” Andrew Wiggins said.

Fans get into it with the Wolves
At one point during the fourth quarter, it appeared at least one Wolves player engaged with a fan near the Wolves bench. It was unclear who the player was, but Karl-Anthony Towns came back in the huddle angry and after the timeout, Saunders had a chat with Jordan Bell. After the game, Saunders said the Wolves asked the Suns to handle it. 

"I think it was just an unruly fan," Saunders said. "We asked Phoenix security to deal with it and they did a nice job with that."

 

AD or LeBron? You pick your poison playing Lakers

LOS ANGELES – LeBron James or Anthony Davis. One of them is likely to doom you when you play the Lakers. It’s just a matter of picking your preferred poison.

On Sunday in a 142-125 loss to the Lakers, the Wolves chose Davis, with a shot of James.

Davis became the third player to post 50 points on the Wolves this season while James was no slouch either with 32 points and 13 assists.

Davis was an especially efficient 20 of 29 shooting and 10 of 10 from the free-throw line. He did a lot of work around the basket, and the Wolves had no answer for him defensively. Their main lineup with Robert Covington at the four didn’t quite hold up with Davis and JaVale McGee at center while the big-bodied James was there to inflict damage. It was a bad matchup all around.

“We’re blessed to be in the West. It’s a gift and a curse,” center Karl-Anthony Towns said. “The gift is we see so much pick and roll with top players, there’s something you’re always adjusting to. They have a good rapport and are playing well.

When asked what Davis did especially well, coach Ryan Saunders replied: “Everything. He can score inside, he can score outside. You saw it. Everything.”

James has foul trouble in the first half that limited him to 28 minutes, but he made the most of those minutes. He was a plus-24 for the game while increasing his league high assist average with 13.
The pair were especially lethal in pick and roll situations that were almost impossible for the Wolves to defend.

“If you’re mixing it up and trying to take [James] away, take his playmaking ability away, you’re kind of giving up Anthony Davis at times too,” Saunders said. “It’s one of those things that, like you said, you kind of pick your poison.”

Okogie heating up from deep
It has been a struggle for Josh Okogie to find his shooting touch from deep early in his NBA tenure. But there have been some encouraging signs of late. Okogie may only be shooting 29% for his career, but he has shot much better of late. He went 3-for-5 against the Lakers (and was fouled shooting another).

Over his last six games, Okogie is 9-for-17. It’s a sample size, but at least it’s moving in the direction the Wolves want to see.

 

8:30 PM (ESPN)
LA Clippers 19-7
Minnesota 10-14

NBA Scoreboard

  • LA Lakers

    Miami

     

    - 4th, 0:18

    111

    107

  • Houston

    Orlando

     

    - F

    130

    107

  • New Orleans

    Philadelphia

     

    - 4th, 0:19

    109

    112

  • Indiana

    Atlanta

     

    - 4th, 6:18

    97

    90

  • Charlotte

    Chicago

     

    - 3rd, 5:49

    52

    46

  • Milwaukee

    Memphis

     

    - 3rd, 8:16

    75

    68

  • Golden State

    Utah

     

    - 1st, 0:40

    27

    22

  • LA Clippers

    Minnesota

    8:30 PM

    ESPN

  • New York

    Sacramento

    9:00 PM

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