Friday night was a spectacle Minnesota Timberwolves fans have seen time and time again this season. Center Karl-Anthony Towns once again stuffed the box score with 36 points and eight rebounds while the Timberwolves collapsed in the second half getting outscored 61-41 on the way to a 122-106 loss at home to the New Orleans Pelicans.
There are many reasons why the Timberwolves lost this game. Minimal bench production, allowing the Pelicans to shoot 60 percent from the floor and losing the rebounding battle 43-34 all seem like plausible reasons, but there was a glaring omission from the Timberwolves effort that has consistently been missing throughout the season: physicality.
Opposing teams simply seem to be too comfortable when facing the Timberwolves. Friday night was no different as New Orleans Pelicans center Anthony Davis effortlessly logged 42 points scoring from all areas of the court. Davis’ play is not exactly surprising considering he is an all-star and capable of an offensive explosion any given night, but recently many lesser-known NBA players are having success scoring against the Timberwolves. The table below shows notable opposing individual performances against the Timberwolves in the last month.
|Date||Opposing Team||Player||PPG||Pts against Timberwolves|
|Feb 4||Memphis Grizzlies||JaMychal Green||9.2||29|
|Feb 3||Detroit Pistons||Marcus Morris||14.2||36|
|Feb 3||Detroit Pistons||Jon Leuer||11.1||24|
|Jan 24||Phoenix Suns||Tyson Chandler||8.6||22|
|Jan 23||Denver Nuggets||Gary Harris||12.9||22|
Lack of physicality and poor defensive play are not something to which head coach Tom Thibodeau is accustomed. Whether an assistant with the Boston Celtics or head coach of the Chicago Bulls, Thibodeau’s teams always possessed a physical, defensive identity that had gritty players entrenched in the team’s makeup. Thibodeau finds himself in a different scenario with this young Timberwolves team.
The Timberwolves roster is littered with talent. In fact, eight of the 15 the players that make up the Timberwolves roster were drafted in the lottery of their respective drafts and four of them were taken in the top five. However, the roster is missing an edgy, defensive minded player that many great teams have. Golden State Warriors small forward Draymond Green, Houston Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley, and Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan all fit that mold. While none of them are their team’s number one scoring option, they thrive on the defensive end of the court and are the heart and soul of their respective teams.
The most likely candidates to fill that role on the Timberwolves roster seem to be center Cole Aldrich, power forward Gorgui Dieng, point guard Kris Dunn or small forward Lance Stephenson. Unfortunately those players don’t make up the Timberwolves true core of players and none of them regularly plays in crunch time situations at the end of games. The best players on the Timberwolves are nice guys who seem to get along with one another and like playing together. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but ultimately the Timberwolves need an emotional, veteran leader that the young players on the team can lean on.
Defensive physicality and veteran leadership is something the Timberwolves front office will have to address in the near future via trade, free agency or the draft. While small forward Andrew Wiggins is a fantastic defender, he doesn’t exactly come across as someone that is going to get in the face of the opponent or get called for a flagrant foul. It would be a nice change of pace to see someone on the Timberwolves with a mean streak and make opponents think twice about taking the ball to the rim, knowing that there is a real possibility they may end up on the floor.
Logan Metzger is a contributor to HowlinTwolf.com. Follow him on Twitter: @loganmetzger33