The offense is what is going to carry the Timberwolves to whatever number of wins they reach this season. So it had to be a relief for head coach Ryan Saunders to see things finally start to click on that end of the floor Thursday.
Minnesota shot 47 percent from the floor and 39 percent from 3-point range in its 129-127 overtime victory over Dallas to wrap up exhibition play.
The Timberwolves will open the regular season at home Wednesday against Detroit.
There are high expectations for this team’s offense. With Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Ricky Rubio and more, there should be enough playmakers and scorers to keep opposing defenses on their respective heels on a nightly basis.
But through the first two preseason contests, that was far from the case. Minnesota recorded more turnovers than assists in two losses. The ball didn’t move and shots didn’t fall. The offense was disjointed, at best, and just about everyone showed rust.
Concerns on that side of the ball were eased in Dallas. While Minnesota was without Russell, who missed the game for precautionary reasons as he dealt with ankle soreness, Towns found his rhythm. The all-star center scored 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting. Beasley added 18, as did Jarrett Culver, who wrapped up a strong preseason to start his second season. Rookie guard Anthony Edwards continued to transition to the NBA game, tallying 17 points while burying three triples.
Things weren’t quite as good defensively, as Dallas hit 20 triples on 46 percent shooting from deep, and Towns noted that end of the floor — which has held this organization back for so long — is the major area of focus heading into the season.
One step at a time. That Minnesota may have ironed out one issue with a week remaining until the regular season is important.
“Win or lose tonight … I would’ve felt good,” Saunders said. “Because these guys worked the last two days. They worked.”
Saunders said the Wolves’ past two practices were “tough,” because everyone recognized Minnesota looked nowhere near regular season-ready. After Thursday’s contest, they appear to be much closer.
“You want to see the rewards, too. … So for us to feel good, get a victory, as well, that feels good in that locker room,” Saunders said. “But it probably feels better because these guys know how hard they’ve been working, especially the last two days. … I’m glad that (the struggles) happened early and we were able to hit them on some of these things, and game translation is a big thing in this league, so to see it tonight is a big positive.”
Saunders feels his team is starting to buy into and understand the concepts and how the coaching staff wants it to play.
“The fact that pace is not just north-south, it’s east-west, that was a heavy emphasis for us in our last two practices and our shootaround today,” Saunders said. “We were very detailed on it, and if things weren’t done right, keep doing it until you get it right. When it translates to the game, I know I’m happy, and I know other guys are happy, as well.”
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