PHOENIX – Entering this road trip, the Timberwolves defense was on an upswing. They had inched up to 12th in defensive efficiency and it seemed like they were figuring things out.
Then they allowed a season high 139 points to Oklahoma City on Friday. You can explain some of that away by saying it was an overtime game, one the Wolves should’ve never let get there.
But then they followed that up by allowing another season high, 142, to the Lakers on Sunday, as Anthony Davis went for 50.
They didn’t allow another season high Monday against Phoenix, but they did allow 125 points and the Suns shot 50% from the field and 40% from three-point range.
If the Wolves are going to turn around this current five-game losing streak, it’s going to start on the defensive end of the floor.
“I’ll have to watch the film, but I thought we let out guard down early on [in the second half],” coach Ryan Saunders said. “We let Phoenix get into a rhythm. They got a little bit of energy from that and we were unable to come back.”
When asked what the Wolves needed to improve on that end of the floor – communication, understanding schemes -- Saunders didn’t hold back.
“All of the above right now. All of the above,” Saunders said. “Not a good road trip for our defense. Not a good road trip for us in general. We have things we need to clean up going home. We’ll have challenges but opportunities.”
Guard Josh Okogie was pretty clear in what he thought needed fixing.
“Just got to rebound. Finish the defense,” Okogie said.
When asked again about the defensive improvement Okogie said, “I just think we have to rebound. That’s pretty much it.”
It wasn’t a terrible night rebounding for the Wolves, who allowed 12 offensive rebounds, but the Suns did capitalize on those for 26 second-chance points.
The Wolves rate 20th in defensive rebounding percentage, or the number of available defensive rebounds they actually secure, at .724. So Okogie’s point is a good one – that number could stand to improve.
The Wolves piece together enough quality defensive possession to make a comeback in Monday’s game. The defense left them needing to play almost perfectly on the offensive end of the floor, and that wasn’t happening as the Wolves shot 6 of 22 from three-point range.
“We weren’t getting stops and they kept scoring and they got up big,” Andrew Wiggins said.
Fans get into it with the Wolves
At one point during the fourth quarter, it appeared at least one Wolves player engaged with a fan near the Wolves bench. It was unclear who the player was, but Karl-Anthony Towns came back in the huddle angry and after the timeout, Saunders had a chat with Jordan Bell. After the game, Saunders said the Wolves asked the Suns to handle it.
"I think it was just an unruly fan," Saunders said. "We asked Phoenix security to deal with it and they did a nice job with that."