With the Timberwolves’ current roster and coach Tom Thibodeau’s determination to keep the rotations tight while developing his young starters, the bench is rarely going to be a high-scoring bunch.
Entering Saturday’s game with Brooklyn at Target Center, the Wolves were at the bottom of the league in minutes played by reserves and in bench scoring per game (21.6). But there are certain things Thibodeau wants to see from his bench, whether or not the shots are falling. Especially on offense.
“The ball movement, that’s important,” Thibodeau said. “Kris [Dunn] can get pressure on the rim with his penetration.”
To Thibodeau, getting the ball into the paint is important, whether it is with a post-up or with dribble penetration.
“I think the utilization of the pick-and-roll is important, particularly with [Nemanja] Bjelica because he can shoot and put it on the floor and make the play,” he said. “But we want to be balanced. With the second unit, Zach [LaVine] gets in there and gives us a nice catch-and-shoot game.’’
But to get that balance the Wolves reserves have to hit the open three-pointer. LaVine, who often plays with that group, has showed signs of breaking out of a short shooting slump. But Bjelica has struggled of late with three-pointers. Bjelica is 7-for-36 (19.4 percent) on threes in January.
“He has to keep shooting them,’’ Thibodeau said. “He’s a good shooter. As long as he’s open, we want him to shoot. That’s what keeps a defense honest. We have the belief he’s going to make them.”
Bjelica stayed on the court taking extra shots long after the team’s morning shoot-around.
Perhaps you’re wondering why Saturday’s Wolves game tipped off at 8 p.m., when the normal start time for Wolves home games is 7 p.m.?
Three letters: ABC.
ABC televised Saturday’s Clippers-Golden State game, with a 7:30 p.m. start, nationwide. As an accommodation to that, the Wolves scheduled an 8 p.m. start of their game so as not to interfere with the national broadcast. This isn’t the only time this season it will happen, either. The Wolves’ home game with Memphis next Saturday will start at 8 p.m. as well, as will road games at Houston Feb. 25 and at San Antonio March 4.
“That’s the challenge of our league, the readiness to play,” Thibodeau said. “You have all different situations to deal with: back-to-backs, four in five, early start, late start. Whenever you got to go, you got to go.”
Towns Sr. has MRI
Karl-Anthony Towns said his father, Karl, whose right knee was injured during the Wolves’ game with Indiana Thursday, had an MRI on his knee but hasn’t gotten the results yet. The elder Towns incurred the injury when, during a timeout, the team mascot slid down the stairs on a sled. It appeared the sled hit a chair, which hit Towns’ knee. “I didn’t know it happened,” Towns said. “I just remember looking up and seeing Crunch about to start to sled.” Karl Towns Sr. is still on crutches, his son said.