The Minnesota Timberwolves are off to their best start in 16 years and feeling good headed to Dallas in search of their third straight win Friday night.
“I like the way we’re playing on both ends,” Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We’re doing it unselfishly. I think we’re playing harder, but one game doesn’t get it done. We have to do it day after day, and hopefully we’re building the right habits.”
Minnesota, currently third in the Western Conference at 9-5, has won seven of its last nine games. The only better 14-game start in franchise history was 10-4 in 2001-02.
The Timberwolves beat the Mavericks (2-12) earlier this season, claiming a 112-99 victory at Target Center on Nov. 4. Karl-Anthony Towns led the way that night with 31 points and 12 rebounds. Andrew Wiggins scored 23, and Taj Gibson notched a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards. Jeff Teague had 11 points and 10 assists for his double-double.
While Thibodeau’s teams are usually known for defense, he can’t help but praise his squad’s offense. The Timberwolves have scored at least 100 points in all but two games, going 8-4 when it reaches the century mark. Minnesota is also 7-1 when shooting at least 45 percent from the floor.
“When we shoot the ball (well), we get the ball moving, that gives opportunities to everyone,” Thibodeau said. “Of course, (Towns) is putting a lot of pressure on the rim. That’s critical. We need one guy to roll hard to the basket to make the defense react. Once we get the defense to collapse, we get good shots.”
The Timberwolves got plenty in Wednesday’s 98-86 home win over San Antonio, snapping a 12-game losing streak to the Spurs. Towns had 26 points and 16 rebounds for his 11th double-double this season. Teague added 16 points and six assists.
Dallas also played San Antonio in its last game but suffered a 97-91 setback at American Airlines Center. The Mavs came out of that game lamenting their lack of ball movement.
Dallas has struggled this season against long and athletic teams that switch extensively, effectively limiting the effectiveness of the pick-and-roll.
“That’s what happens when teams switch. That’s what they want you to do,” Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “They want you to slow the game down, get into a lot of one-on-one, shoot step-back jumpers, contested 2s.
“That’s where the game’s going. A lot of teams are switching now. A lot of teams are playing the same-sized guys — four, five, six, seven 6-9 guys switching everything. We’ve got to get better and attack that. We have shown flashes where we keep moving, cutting, finding open shooters, penetrating and kicking.”
Rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. led the Mavs with 27 points against the Spurs, showing off his quickness and ability to finish at the rim. He also had six turnovers and only two assists.
Being able to read the defense and make quicker decisions has been a work in progress for the lottery pick.
“It’s something that we’re working on learning, well, at least me,” Smith said. “I’ve got a lot to learn about that, trying to get into the paint and still not dribble too much. It’s just taking some time. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’m sure it’ll come around though.”
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