When you are a team that even optimistic fans would decide is a fringe contender to make the playoffs at best, stealing edges in subtle places can be of massive importance.
That was on display in both positive and negative ways Tuesday for the Wolves (good) and Wild (bad), two teams that fall into the “fringe playoff contender” category.
*For the Wolves, their 125-113 victory at Atlanta was driven by a handful of factors — including the extension of a peculiar home-road split that has them 3-6 at Target Center but 6-2 away from home, with performances that match those records.
Drilling down a little more, though, we see one key area in which the Wolves were markedly improved Monday — thanks in part to the contributions of suddenly key forward Keita Bates-Diop.
In the victory, the Wolves went 5-for-7 (71%) on corner three-point attempts, including 2 of 3 by Bates-Diop — one of them by KBD being a big make with 3:24 left to extend the Wolves’ lead to 117-107.
For the season, the Wolves are still just 36 for 119 on corner 3s — and their 30.3% mark on those shots is tied for worst in the league. That’s significant because corner 3s are the shortest shots worth that much — 22 feet as opposed to 23 feet, 9 inches above the break, that spot on the court where the line changes from straight to an arc.
A team that is emphasizing three-point shooting and ball movement should get a ton of opportunities for corner threes, and the Wolves’ inability to knock them down this year has hindered their offense.
But Bates-Diop, the second-year player who started the year in the G League in Iowa but has been on the court lately, has shown in a small sample size that he might be a weapon in the corners. He’s 6 for 8 on corner threes this season (and just 1 of 10 on all other three-point attempts).
Now, this is where I point out that Bates-Diop was just 4 for 19 on corner threes as a rookie, but if that’s a skill he’s developing it will be a welcome sight for the Wolves given that none of their other wings besides Andrew Wiggins (38.5% from the corner this year) is above 33% and many are far below that mark.
*It’s possible, though, that you were either watching the Wild game or flipping back and forth between the Wild and Wolves last night. If so, you might have seen the other side of subtle edges.
Minnesota coughed up a late lead and went to overtime tied 2-2 at the Rangers. For most teams, that would still mean a reasonable chance to regroup and snag a win (and an extra point). For the Wild, overtime has been a nightmare.
Since the format changed to a 3-on-3 session for five minutes before the 2015-16 season, the Wild is a dismal 12-32 in overtime games. That is not a misprint.
The carnage started on Oct. 16, 2015 in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Kings. The three Wild skaters on the ice when L.A.’s Anze Kopitar scored the winner: Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek and Marco Scandella.
The Wild has chased the right mix of players for the extra session as the years went on, but to open things Monday head coach Bruce Boudreau sent out forward Joel Eriksson Ek along with defensemen Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon. The aim was to gain possession and then switch to a more attacking three, but the Rangers ended things just 32 seconds into the frame.
Minnesota is now 0-4 in overtime this season, giving away valuable points just by failing to be even average. With just two wins in OT out of four, they’d be 11-11-2, clustered more with a group of wild card hopefuls instead of sitting with the second-fewest points in the West.