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New Wolves forward Andrei Kirilenko on the team's emphasis on defense in the preseason: "I think it’s a good start. We all know great offense makes you excited, but only defense can win you the game.”

Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

WOLVES Season opener: 7 p.m. Friday vs. Sacramento • Target Center • TV: Ch. 29 (830-AM)

To move up, Wolves must be able to clamp down

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA
  • Star Tribune
  • October 30, 2012 - 9:51 AM

The Timberwolves ended the preseason ranked first defensively in the NBA in fewest points and lowest field-goal percentage allowed.

Yep, you read that right.

The same franchise that allowed 152 points in a game three seasons ago and surrendered 120 or more points a dozen times two seasons ago allowed opponents 80.9 points and a 38.3 shooting percentage in seven preseason games.

"I understand the preseason is a little different from the [regular] season and definitely different from the playoffs," Wolves forward Andrei Kirilenko said. "But I think it's a good start. We all know great offense makes you excited, but only defense can win you the game."

The Wolves limited Detroit and Milwaukee to fewer than 20 points in four of the preseason's final eight quarters with a defense that lacks a classic individual shutdown defender but has compensated for it so far -- and it's way early -- with scheme and attention to detail.

"I always heard Coach likes to work on offense early in camp, but this year we really got after it on defense the first four days," guard Brandon Roy said. "We put a lot of work into it."

Wolves coach Rick Adelman realizes it's only seven preseason games, but ...

"I think we can be pretty good if we're picking up what the other team is trying to do and if we have each other's back," Adelman said. "It's a matter of trust, really. We're going to try to make them go to a different option rather than go to their strengths."

Adelman looks back to last season and sees a team that defended well until Ricky Rubio went down because of a knee injury and Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic each were lost for part of the season's final six weeks.

"The last 20 games last year, we weren't very good," Adelman said. "We're trying to be better. We're trying to be more consistent. That's what we've been talking about since Day 1."

And the talk has been about "team" defense, the concept that they can compensate for that lack of great individual defenders by helping each other out when a mistake is made and the defense is about to break down.

"There are five of us out there, we're all looking to help each other," forward Dante Cunningham said. "There's not one guy out there that necessarily locks down someone per se, but we have a lot of guys who are going to give help and make sure our team looks great defensively.

"If you look at the makeup of our team, we've got such energy guys, such athletic guys all the way around, that defense kind of is second nature to us."

Adelman is eighth in NBA career victories with 971, a number usually credited to his offensive mind rather than his attention to defense.

"I think sometimes he may get a little overlooked because he really is a good offensive coach and his teams do a great job of running plays," Roy said. "But I played against his teams in Houston and they were all good defensively. You had to play against Ron [Artest] and Shane Battier. Those guys are defensive-minded. I always felt those were good defensive teams."

Adelman knows that leading the league in two prominent preseason defensive categories means nothing come Friday night's season opener against Sacramento at Target Center.

"Obviously when you get to the regular season, things will be harder," he said. "But I think it's a good learning tool for us. Hopefully players will understand that's how we're going to win, defending consistently night after night. I think we've done that so far. We've been able to stay consistent and I'd rather start there and have some basis to build on.

"That's going to be part of our identity. We have to win defensively. We have to be able to guard people."

Roy bangs knee

Roy was limited in practice on Monday after banging knees with a teammate. Adelman said Roy was held out from most of practice as a precaution and he said he expected Roy to participate fully when the team scrimmages hard on Tuesday.

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