Timberwolves get back to ball pressure
“Better late than never” is the best way to describe the Wolves’ defensive effort in Cleveland, particularly as it relates to their perimeter activity.
With the Cavaliers down Darius Garland, Rajon Rondo and Caris LeVert from an already injury-wracked backcourt, it’s actually pretty damning how poor Minnesota’s ball pressure was to start the game. Isaac Okoro and two-way player Brandon Goodwin comprised the Cavaliers’ starting backcourt alongside big men Lauri Markkanen, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. That should be a recipe for a stagnant, turnover-prone offense.
In the first quarter, Minnesota didn’t apply nearly enough tough on-ball defense, allowing the Cavs to take advantage of their edge in size by getting plenty of easy looks at the basket. But the bench turned the tide in getting the Wolves back into the game, and ball pressure was the key factor in Minnesota expanding its lead in the third quarter. The Wolves finished with 35 points on 22 Cavs turnovers.
Regardless, the Wolves’ defense left a lot to be desired. The Cavaliers, who entered the game ranked No. 19 in offensive rating for the season, shot 52.7 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from three. Some of that came from the size discrepancy, but it mostly came down to Minnesota’s poor effort and attention to detail.
And then the Wolves’ biggest defensive wart — fouling — reared its head again. Cleveland went 29-of-34 at the line as opposed to Minnesota’s 15-of-19. It’s hard to expect the far-and-away most foul-happy team in the NBA to clean it up over 20 games, so the Wolves will just have to find ways to win in spite of that shortcoming, as they did Monday night.
Minnesota has another chance to get off the schneid in the second night of back-to-backs (they have lost five straight such games) when they host the Golden State Warriors tomorrow night.