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3 key factors behind Timberwolves’ rise after lengthy skid

Timberwolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves entered their 2021-22 campaign with some turmoil due to the Gersson Rosas fiasco, but there were still increased expectations with Anthony Edwards entering his sophomore season alongside the talented duo of Karl Anthony-Towns and D’Angelo Russell. The Timberwolves also showed promise under head coach Chris Finch at the end of last season, so the hope was they would build on that.

After a recent skid in which Minnesota lost eight of nine games to drop to 4-9, the fortunes have changed in recent weeks. The Timberwolves recently won five games in a row and just beat the Philadelphia 76ers in a double-overtime thriller to get to 10-10 on the season. There’s a lot of optimism surrounding this team now, and there are several reasons why Minnesota is winning games.

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Reasons for Minnesota Timberwolves’ surge

1. 4th in net rating over last 7 games

Minnesota’s roster is known to excel offensively, but being one of the best defensive squads over this stretch has been sensational for this young roster, leading to a 12.3 net rating over the last seven games. Jarred Vanderbilt and Jaden McDaniels have complemented Towns in anchoring the rim protection and crashing the boards, with Vanderbilt’s insertion into the starting lineup a revelation for Finch and his coaching staff.

Patrick Beverley is going to miss some time with an injury, but he has been another underrated addition to their squad because of his ability to set the tone defensively. Additionally, their other role players in Taurean Prince, Naz Reid, and Malik Beasley have also elevated their game in this crucial stretch for Minnesota. With this impressive run for their team, the next step is staying consistent and not taking these victories for granted.

As Minnesota currently sits ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference, the target continues to grow for them as their opponents will not consider taking this team lightly anymore.

2. Towns, Edwards, Russell have been leaders

The huge question mark for Minnesota’s big three has been their reliability of galvanizing their teammates and being leaders for the youthful lineup. Their individual numbers have continued to be remarkable this season, but it has been their leadership and defense that has been the difference maker over the last few games. For instance, when Towns fouled out against the Philadelphia 76ers, Reid and Vanderbilt were able to help each other defend Joel Embiid despite scoring his season high of 42 points.

The Timberwolves have the best five-man lineup by net rating (48.3)in the whole league with a minimum of 90 minutes played. The unit of Russell, Beverley, Edwards, Vanderbilt, and Towns has played a total of 92 minutes together, with a point differential of plus-86. With three spectacular offensive players and two defensive stalwarts, Finch has finally found the balance of a combination that flourishes offensively and defensively when everybody is healthy.

3. 14.9 3-pointers per game over the last 7

The Timberwolves are getting up a ton of 3-pointers, leading the NBA in 3-point attempts (42.3) and coming in third in 3-point makes (14.9) over the last seven games. While their conversion rate isn’t elite (35.1%), these 3-pointers have helped open up the offense.

The last seven games, Edwards, Russell, and Beasley have each recorded over three shots per game from rainbow country, respectively. Even if Towns is known to dominate the paint, he has also chipped in with 1.7 conversions per game from long distance on 41.4%. If Minnesota is able to drill constant makes from long range, the driving lanes will continue to open up for Edwards’ rim-rattling jams and Russell’s floaters and mid-range shots. Additionally, it becomes difficult to double Towns when he gets the ball in the shaded lane.

As Minnesota hopes to sustain this phenomenal streak, the challenge continues to grow, but this is the juncture wherein fans and media will know if they are the real deal. They are hoping to reach the play-in tournament at the very least, and those knockdown matches would test the mettle and relentlessness of this franchise. Even if they exit early in the playoffs, the essential aspect of their team is constant evolution and development as Towns, Edwards, and Russell eventually reach their peak as a core.