They came back from a two-game road trip with two consecutive victories. And, entering Friday, they had the third-best road record in the NBA at 7-2.
Now they need to do that at home.
Early-season road warriors, the Timberwolves own a 3-6 record at Target Center. That was the worst home record of the 16 league teams in playoff position through Thursday.
“We just have to get it together,” Andrew Wiggins said. “We have to have that mind-set where we don’t lose at home. It’s our house, we have to protect it. That has to be our mind-set.”
The Wolves enter Sunday’s game vs. Memphis with a four-game home losing streak. It was a streak that began with a clunker against Washington on Nov. 15 but also included losses to quality teams in Houston, Utah and Phoenix.
Indeed, the quality of opponents at home has been more difficult. Coming out of Thanksgiving the collective record of the Wolves’ home opponents was 87-71 (.551), with six of the nine opponents in playoff position.
On the road? A combined 67-94 record (.416) with only three teams currently in playoff position.
“That’s something that is definitely a factor,” Wolves coach Ryan Saunders said Friday. “But we have to make sure we take care of home. And that’s going to be a challenge to our guys today. We understand we’ve lost some games at home of late. We want to play well here.”
Especially on offense, the different in the numbers is striking. The Wolves are averaging 109.9 points, shooting 42.1% overall and 27.7% on three-pointers at Target Center. Those numbers on the road: 118.3, 46.1, 37.5.
Some players have talked about the bonding aspect of being on the road, how it brings a team closer. Saunders acknowledged that as a factor.
“We have to get that mentality at home,” he said. “We look forward to getting that right.”
The road will get tougher after Sunday. The Wolves will have four games in six nights with stops at Dallas, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles (vs. Lakers) and Phoenix.
Using their time
But the schedule did give the Wolves a nice three-day stretch between their victory at San Antonio on Wednesday and Sunday’s game vs. Memphis. It enabled Saunders to give the team Thanksgiving off, and get workouts in both Friday and Saturday.
“We were one of the few teams allowed a scheduled break,” Saunders said.
It allows the Wolves to tweak some things.
“We have to be smart with what we do at this point in the season,” he said, talking about managing the load on the players. “But we’re going to get a lot of shots up, try to make sure we clean some things up defensively, and get ready for Memphis.”
Wiggins agreed, saying: “Everything starts with defense. We’ve had little breakdowns. For us it’s execution. We’ve made some changes to the lineup, so it’s just perfecting that.”