Wolves' weakness turns to strength over last 10 games

Detroit Pistons v Minnesota Timberwolves
Detroit Pistons v Minnesota Timberwolves / David Berding/GettyImages

The Minnesota Timberwolves have reached 50 wins for the first time in 20 years. Additionally, the 50th win in the 72nd game marked the fastest the franchise has ever done so. It's been an incredible season for the Wolves and there's much more to come.

After tonight's victory, Minnesota is only a game out of first place. The Wolves may be propelled into the top spot if they're able to defeat the top-seeded Denver Nuggets away from home on Friday night. This season, both squads have each won a game against one another.

In the last 10 contests, the Nuggets are 8-2, while the Wolves are 7-3. Both squads are excelling despite some prominent injuries. Denver is without star guard Jamal Murray, who has missed the last three games due to a sprained left ankle.

As for Minnesota's injury misfortune, Rudy Gobert and Naz Reid have each missed at least one game in March. But most notably, All-Star big man Karl-Anthony Towns has been sidelined since March 7 because of a left meniscus tear.

Although the loss of Towns has been difficult to overcome, the Wolves have navigated the late-season stretch of games quite well. Starting in Towns' place, Naz Reid has performed admirably. In six starts, Reid has averaged 20.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 3.5 triples per game.

As a team, Minnesota has locked in on the defensive end and played with superb efficiency on offense. Over the last 10 affairs, the Wolves have allowed a measly 105.5 points per game—an entire point below their season average.

On offense, the Wolves have turned it over at the third-fewest rate in the association. Since March 7, Minnesota has only coughed it up 10.3 times per game. What was once a weakness has turned into a strength.

Prior to Towns' injury, the Wolves turned it over at the sixth-highest rate in the association. Although a team stat, Towns' turnover woes played a large part in Minnesota's grand giveaway issue.

Towns' turnover problems proved detrimental to Minnesota's offense. Amongst all NBA players to attempt five drives per game, the Wolves big man leads all such players with a 10.3 percent turnover percentage.

Furthermore, Towns is the only player in the NBA to average at least one turnover despite averaging less than 10 drives per game. The four-time All-Star is a fantastic, all-around offensive player, but his limitations are apparent.

On the season, he's averaged 2.8 giveaways per game—15th in the league. Of the 15 most turnover-prone players, Towns ranks fourth-to-last in usage rate. Towns' placement in usage rate is nearly double his rank in turnovers per game.

Now, without Towns, the Wolves only roster one player who averages more than 1.6 turnovers per game. That player is superstar Anthony Edwards, who, by the way, ranks fourth in the associate in usage rate and 13th in drives per game.

Towns' replacement, Reid, has averaged just 1.5 turnovers in nearly 29 minutes per game. As a team, the Wolves are doing a fantastic job of taking care of the ball. Knowingly without an explosive offense, head coach Chris Finch has shifted the emphasis to taking care of the ball and hunting for quality shots.

The trade-deadline addition of Monte Morris has also paid dividends. Although not providing the same scoring punch as he did a year ago, Morris has put his unique ability to take care of the ball on display. In 16 appearances for the Wolves, the veteran guard has only coughed it up three times. In games without Towns, Morris has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 14:1.

All of a sudden, Minnesota can be categorized as a mistake-free squad. The same turnover-worthy plays that once plagued the Wolves are gone. Now only time will tell if Minnesota can keep this up, especially upon Town's much-anticipated return.