WASHINGTON – The Timberwolves had issues the past few seasons with their transition defense, but teams have been trying to exploit that even more since the Wolves have begun deploying two big men lineups with Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert.
The Warriors took advantage of that in their victory Sunday vs. the Wolves and scored 16 fast-break points. That's above the Wolves' average allowed of 14.6, which ranks 20th in the league.
One simple solution to this is for the Wolves to just get back more consistently instead of trying to get offensive rebounds. But Gobert said if the Wolves commit to trying to get back, they have to do so decisively.
"Myself and all of us, just train ourselves to react quick," Gobert said. "Then once we shoot the ball, I'm probably going to go offensive rebound, but if I'm not close to the basket, I'm just going to run back. But just that split second when we gotta turn and just run back."
Fast-break points don't capture the fullness of how transition defense can hurt a team. It only measures those points scored directly in fast-break situations. It usually does not measure how poor transition can affect the rest of a possession because teams are able to exploit mismatches of personnel caused by poor transition defense.
That has been one of the biggest problems the Wolves face in that area.
"We get cross-matched too often," Gobert said.
The solution to that, Gobert said, was also to be more purposeful about getting back on defense.
"It comes down to the same thing," Gobert said. "It's just all going from offense to defense a little quicker. And just have that switch, boom, the shot is in the air, the ball is in the air, you're either under the rim, and you're by yourself and you can rebound, or you just gotta run back. You can just wait and see what what's going on, because while you're looking, they're already going."
Wolves coach Chris Finch recently praised the transition defense during the team's five-game win streak, but Golden State showed how much the Wolves need to keep at it.
"We talk about it every single game," Finch said. "We talked about it before the season, that everybody was going to run."
The Wolves still had a number of players out for Monday's game. Jaden McDaniels (illness) missed his second consecutive game. Taurean Prince (shoulder) and Jordan McLaughlin (left calf strain) were both out for a third straight game.
Prince was set to miss one to two weeks for the Wolves, Finch said Friday. He characterized McLaughlin as day to day but McLaughlin hasn't been able to make it back yet. He was on the trip and worked out on the floor before the game.
"No real clarity," Finch said when asked if he knew when McLaughlin might be back. "I'm hopeful it's the next time we play, which is Wednesday. But with those types of things you just never know. It could feel 95%, then you push it one little bit further and then it doesn't feel so good."