Timberwolves’ offense has rhythm and movement. That needs to continue with the team’s stars
Minnesota’s offense has found its rhythm without KAT and Ant; it’s their job to join the flow, not disrupt it
Minnesota went on a 19-4 run in the fourth frame Wednesday that put the Timberwolves in a position to hold off Atlanta late for a much-needed home victory. At the center of the run was a stout defense that made life uncomfortable for the Hawks and sparked a couple of transition opportunities.
But not to be dismissed was an offense that routinely generated good looks. It did so through spacing, ball movement and decision-making. It helped the big-ball lineup of Kyle Anderson, Taurean Prince, Jaden McDaniels, Naz Reid and Rudy Gobert that the Wolves had a clear objective: Attack Hawks point guard Trae Young. But it required execution.
For instance, when Prince was standing in the corner with Young on him, the wing found an opportunity to dart to the top of the floor. The ball then found him, and he attacked Atlanta’s point guard off the bounce. Prince got into the lane, drew help and immediately dropped the ball off to Gobert for an easy bucket. Players on the floor took turns making similarly effective, unselfish plays when opportunities presented themselves.
“There’s a lot of guys who you trust making decisions and who have came a long way since Ant and KAT have been out,” Anderson said.
Those players have favored a fluid, pass-first brand of basketball that has generated a few impressive offensive outings. The win over Atlanta came on the heels of a 140-point showing in a win over the Knicks.
The high outputs are a result of a style favored by coach Chris Finch. Minnesota is moving the ball and developing multiple actions — some scripted, some not — in the same possession. The unpredictability makes Minnesota difficult to guard regardless of who is on the floor.
“Everybody is just finally clicking,” point guard Mike Conley said. “Offensive performances like we had in New York, where we have a bunch of different guys contributing in different ways — you get confident the more you do that, and we’re motivated for each game.”
Conley is the general of it all. He’s becoming more comfortable with the offensive system. He’s no longer looking to Finch as often for directions. He has familiarized himself with the intended randomness of the offense.
“I’m starting to do it myself and manipulate the game a little more. So, I’m excited about that,” Conley said. “There was a lot of times (before where) I would find myself just drift to the corner and sit there and just kind of let stuff happen, and now I’m like, ‘Alright, I’m just gonna walk to the ball, go get it and run a pick and roll. We will be fine.’ … It’s not always clean and crisp, but I think if we get to get the guys we want in the right spots, it becomes really effective.”
Those are the types of things that can develop during a possession when a shot isn’t fired up within the first few seconds and players are given the freedom to move and create on and off the ball. It doesn’t have to be overly elaborate, either. In the fourth quarter Wednesday, the offense was sometimes as simple as swinging the ball around the perimeter until someone like McDaniels or Reid saw a seam or matchup to attack.
“I think everybody is understanding their role is not just to be stagnant and wait and watch two guys go to work, or one guy go to work,” Conley said. “We’re all involved in it. No matter who’s in the lineup, who’s back, if KAT’s back, that doesn’t mean we just sit and watch. We’ve still got to be aggressive, still look for your opportunities, still be active on the ball. And we create more opportunities for each other.”
The challenge is maintaining that rhythm and movement even with two scoring stars like Towns and Anthony Edwards, who missed practice Friday with illness but could return from his sprained ankle Sunday when the Wolves meet the Warriors in Oakland, California.
Even Wednesday, Finch said Towns’ offense could have come more within the flow of the offense. The idea is that there is no predetermined end point to a possession. The ball shouldn’t automatically stop moving with any one player.
Finch said the Wolves are working with Towns on his spacing and decision-making when the big gets the ball. Towns took 18 shots in 26 minutes against Atlanta.
“We can’t have him coming in and being too much of a ball-stopper right now. We have a really good rhythm to our offense. The ball has been really moving well,” Finch said. “Both he and Ant come back, even though we need the scoring, we have to maintain that rhythm.”
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