Jace Frederick / St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS—While much was made this week about Case Keenum's lack of playoff experience, he'd lived out the scenario at the end of Sunday's game many times—on the lawn of his childhood home. "Being a kid growing up, that's what you do in the backyard," Keenum said. "Thirty seconds to go, you're down by two, fourth quarter, playoffs, Drew Brees is the quarterback of the other team. That's what you dream about." And Keenum delivered a dream finish.
MINNEAPOLIS — No, the Timberwolves' blowout victory over Cleveland on Monday, Jan. 8, wasn't a playoff game, but Karl-Anthony Towns said the vibe at Target Center had that type of feel. As did the locker room prior to the game. Taj Gibson came to Minnesota primarily for the chance to reunite with coach Tom Thibodeau, whose guidance led Gibson to some of the best years of his career when the two were together in Chicago. After playing for two other coaches over the past two seasons, Gibson wanted to get back to something familiar.
MINNEAPOLIS—The first question sent LeBron James' way on Monday morning caused the best player on the planet to raise his eyebrows. "LeBron, when you look at this Timberwolves team, do you see a team that's on the rise? A young team that's going to threaten at some point here?" "Young team?" James responded. "They're not young anymore. Jimmy (Butler), Jamal (Crawford), Taj (Gibson), Aaron Brooks, Jeff Teague, they're not young anymore." James conceded that, while 37 years old, Crawford's face is at least still young.
MINNEAPOLIS — Twenty-six NBA lineups have played at least 180 minutes together this season. The best resides in Minnesota: It includes Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Taj Gibson and ... Tyus Jones. Yes, the Timberwolves' stars are better when they play with the third-year point guard from Apple Valley, Minn. In the 183 minutes Jones has spent on the court with the rest of the starters, the Timberwolves have outscored opponents by 23.3 points per 100 possessions, best among all five-man NBA lineups with at least 180 minutes together.
MINNEAPOLIS — With his Timberwolves leading the Lakers by 17 points with five minutes to play Monday night, coach Tom Thibodeau decided his team needed a stop. So he crouched down into a stance on the sideline and started to slide his feet. Not bad form for a guy two weeks shy of his 60th birthday. After the game, Thibodeau denied the action before smiling and stepping away from the podium, but the tape provides all the evidence you need. When asked about the coach's defense after the game, Jimmy Butler said he'd already heard about it.
MINNEAPOLIS—Tom Thibodeau sits for approximately 20 seconds during Timberwolves games—at the very beginning. Moments into each contest, Thibodeau finds a reason to get up, and he stays up. From there, he coaches each possession like it's going to determine a game, because maybe it will—maybe not even the one being played on that particular evening, but one that will soon follow. The Wolves were in control for the duration of their 114-96 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, Jan. 1, at Target Center, yet Thibodeau never sat down.
MINNEAPOLIS—Apparently, four WNBA titles and six Finals appearances in seven years earns you an extension ... and a promotion. Rightfully so. The Lynx announced Thursday they've signed Cheryl Reeve to a multi-year extension to coach the team and also promoted her to general manager. "I appreciate (Lynx owner) Glen Taylor's confidence in me to continue to lead the Lynx organization," Reeve said in a statement. "I'm thrilled with the strong and passionate staff we've assembled and look forward to the challenges that lie ahead."
MINNEAPOLIS — It is no secret that 3-point shooting isn't one of the Timberwolves' strengths. Minnesota is 29th in the NBA in 3-point shots made (8.1), 28th in 3-point attempted (22.9) and 20th in 3-point percentage (35.6). "The threes are important," Thibodeau said. "We've just got to make sure that they're the right ones, and I think we'll continue to improve as guys get more comfortable with each other."
MINNEAPOLIS — This was supposed to be Shabazz Muhammad's breakout season. Sure, it was a disappointing offseason. After turning down a contract extension from the Timberwolves last fall, Muhammad entered free agency this summer expecting to cash in, but money dried up for most franchises and Muhammad was left with a few small-money offers.
Through the quarter pole of the season, the Timberwolves' fourth quarters were the punch-line of many jokes. No lead was safe with how poorly Minnesota was capable of playing over the final 12 minutes. Through 22 games, Minnesota's fourth-quarter offense was bad. Its defense was worse. Putting the two together, the Wolves were being outscored by 15.4 points per 100 possessions in the final frame — far and away the worst mark in the NBA.