The Minnesota Timberwolves are finally beginning to play some defense, which raises their ceiling considerably. The Timberwolves will try to hold a third straight opponent under 100 points when they visit the NBA-worst Dallas Mavericks on Friday.
Minnesota was allowing opponents to shoot better than 50 percent from the field through the first four weeks of the season and is still last in the NBA in field-goal percentage defense (49.3), but at least it is moving in the right direction. The Timberwolves held opponents under 100 points in each of their last five wins and put together one of their best defensive performances on Wednesday, when they held the San Antonio Spurs to 41.8 percent shooting in a 98-86 triumph. The Mavericks aren’t much better on the defensive end and pair that with an offense ranked 29th in the NBA while shooting 42.3 percent. “There has to be balance,” Dallas forward Harrison Barnes told the team’s website of the offense. “I think we have guys on this team who can create off the dribble, who are good at that. But at the same time, I understand what (coach Rick Carlisle is) saying, just in terms of moving, making sure everyone’s touching it, getting a flow to the offense. I think there’s a balance to be had with both. Right now, in trying to get out of this rut, I think we’re trying to figure that out.”
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, FS North (Minnesota), FS Southwest (Dallas)
ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (9-5): Minnesota is asking a lot of center Karl-Anthony Towns, and he is delivering. The Kentucky product, who turned 22 on Wednesday, recorded his fourth straight double-double with 26 points and 16 rebounds while playing 40 minutes against the Spurs — the third straight game in which he logged at least 39 minutes. Towns’ performance on Wednesday helped the Timberwolves overcome a rough night from swingman Jimmy Butler, who went 2-of-13 from the floor.
ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (2-13): Dallas began its four-game homestand with a 97-91 loss to the Spurs on Tuesday — its third straight setback — but is starting to see improvement, at least in effort. “We’ve just got to keep bringing the same kind of fight we brought (Tuesday) and we’ve brought really the last three games,” Carlisle told reporters. “I think the last four games our level of fight is really good. We’ve got to get some more shots in, and we’ve got to get off the dribble a little bit. We’re dribbling too much at times, and we’ve got to fight it out on the boards and do a good job with turnovers.” Rookie Dennis Smith Jr. scored a season-high 27 points in the loss to San Antonio and is averaging 21.3 points over his last four games.
1. Mavericks SG Wesley Matthews is 7-of-33 from the floor over the last three games, including 3-of-19 from 3-point range.
2. Timberwolves C Gorgui Dieng (finger) sat out the last three games and is day-to-day.
3. Minnesota beat Dallas 112-99 at home on Nov. 4 behind 31 points and 12 rebounds from Towns.
PREDICTION: Timberwolves 106, Mavericks 92