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Minnesota Timberwolves: 3 takeaways from preseason loss to the Brooklyn Nets

Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves loss against the Brooklyn Nets takes their preseason record to 3-1, which isn’t too shabby at all. Throughout the preseason, the Timberwolves’ defensive improvements have dominated discussions among fans and analysts alike, with the team’s commitment to pressuring the perimeter is an enjoyable surprise.

Defense will always be stress-tested when facing the Brooklyn Nets; they’re arguably one of the greatest offensive teams ever assembled – with or without Kyrie Irving. There’s also no shame in losing to the Nets as they’re one of the favorites to end the season with a championship ring; that’s what happens when you pair James Harden and Kevin Durant together and surround them with shooters and rim runners.

David vs. Goliath, that’s the essence of every game a team plays against the Nets, and the Timberwolves were no different, especially when they were missing D’Angelo Russell for the contest.

Here are three takeaways from the team’s final preseason game.

Takeaway No. 1 from Minnesota Timberwolves preseason loss to the Nets

Half-court offense. The Timberwolves look great in the open court, as they utilize their speed and explosiveness to generate early offense and easy looks at the rim or from kick-outs. They’re also reliable when getting straight into an offensive half-court set, with the team utilizing Karl-Anthony Towns dribble handoff ability and running numerous sets on the wings.

But when their first set doesn’t pay dividends, and the team is forced into secondary and tertiary actions, their potent offense fades away into obscurity, and tentativeness creeps in. Brooklyn is a long and scrappy team, who thrives on clogging driving lanes to force contested shots from the perimeter. If your players cannot generate their own offense off the dribble, the Nets will ensure you hear the shot clock buzzer throughout the game.

Minnesota found this out the hard way, as they failed to manipulate the Nets defense on multiple occasions instead of taking late shot-clock jumpers after 20+ seconds of inaction. Western Conference teams will note this and look to force the Timberwolves into half-court offense at every turn, knowing that if they don’t get a shot off in the first 15 seconds, the team is unlikely to make anything happen on that possession.

Perhaps reintroducing Russell to the starting line-up will go some way to alleviate that issue, as the Wolves starting point guard can create for himself or exploit any gaps within a defensive rotation.

Takeaway No. 2 from Minnesota Timberwolves preseason loss to the Nets

Three-point consistency. Part of this comes down to half-court offense and the ability to create quality looks for each other. The other aspect is being judicial with when to let it fly and when to look for a better shot.

Against the Nets, the Timberwolves shot just 25% from deep, on 11-of-44. Unfortunately, that’s not going to get the job done once the regular season is underway. Poor shooting nights happen. Even the best teams will attest to that, but the fact remains that the Wolves’ offense looked disjointed at times, leading to poor shot attempts.

We’ve all been there! Everything is going well in our day-to-day’s, we’re brimming with confidence, and then BAM, something hits us out of nowhere, and we’re scrambling to react. That’s how the Timberwolves looked for stretches last night, rocked by the Nets defense and devoid of ideas on diversifying their approach.

The silver lining here is that Malik Beasley started to see the ball drop – however inconsistent his shot still looks – and the likes of Anthony Edwards and Towns will rarely shoot this poorly.

Definitely, some work still to be done on generating offense and converting three-point opportunities.

Takeaway No. 3 from Minnesota Timberwolves preseason loss to the Nets

Defensive execution. A balloon drifts away after it’s slipped out of your hand. You stand there watching it ascend into the atmosphere, acknowledging it’s never coming back. There’s a slight disappointment in your stomach as you recognize you messed up. Feelings like this are rooted in all of our childhood memories, and when watching the Timberwolves collapse on defensive possessions, that feeling became all too real.

The application was there; you could see players flying out to the perimeter, chasing over screens, and rotating over to provide help defense. Unfortunately, the execution of such defensive maneuvers was found lacking.

Application and execution, you hear coaches preach this all the time, as one without the other is akin to holding that balloon and having it slip out of your hands. Granted, this was the Nets, and guarding that roster is one of the more difficult tasks in the NBA, but there were far too many holes in the Wolves rotations, and they got punished because of it.

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Hopefully, the regression in defensive communication and execution was just a slight dip in what’s been an encouraging display of improvement in recent games.