Timberwolves finally found their 3-point stroke
A strong month of January has pushed Minnesota back toward the middle of the Wester Conference race
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Timberwolves spent much of the first three months of their season looking to generate offense without the benefit of the outside shot.
A high-volume 3-point shooting team a year ago, Minnesota had that portion of its game dry up at the start of the campaign. That left the Wolves to have to score primarily at the rim and free-throw line. That’s certainly a viable method of offense, but Minnesota was losing 12 to 15 points beyond the arc on a nightly basis, which creates an instant uphill battle.
That disadvantage figured to only grow in the absence of Karl-Anthony Towns, the game’s best-shooting big man. And that played out as such for the first month after he suffered his calf strain. The Wolves ranked 23rd in the NBA in 3-point makes per game in December (10.9), and it was tough to diagnose where any improvement in that area would come from.
It turns out, it would start at the top.
Flame-throwing sessions from the likes of Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell have ignited Minnesota’s perimeter offense.
Since Jan. 6, the Wolves rank seventh in the NBA in 3-point makes per game (13.5) and are fifth in 3-point percentage (39.5). That shooting spurt has spurred Minnesota’s offense, which ranks 13th in the NBA in that span — 116 points per 100 possessions. Not coincidentally, the Wolves are 7-4 during that stretch.
Those numbers only figure to increase when Towns does eventually return to the fold.
Russell has been one of the league’s elite 3-point shooters in January. Of players with at least 50 attempts in the month, Russell ranks ninth in 3-point percentage (48.1). Meanwhile, based on sheer volume, Edwards entered Thursday’s slate in a tie for seventh in total 3-pointers made this month (40).
Others have stepped up, as well, with Kyle Anderson (46.2), Taurean Prince (45.9) and Jaden McDaniels (42.9) serving as consistent contributors who are hitting more shots from outside since Jan. 6.
It’s an important team-wide improvement for Minnesota — establishing, at minimum, adequacy from beyond the arc has become a prerequisite of sorts for contention in today’s NBA. The teams with the league’s seven worst records reside in the bottom 14 in 3-point makes per game. No team in the top half of the league in 3-point makes is more than two games below .500.
The 3-point shot is considered the game’s great equalizer. The ability to hit 15 triples on any given night greatly improves your margin for error over the course of an 82-game campaign when other parts of the game may be lackluster. That’s exactly how things have played out for the Wolves, whose strong month of January has pushed Minnesota back toward the middle of the West, with plenty of room to keep climbing.
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