Hard double teams stopped the Cavs’ backcourt

The defensive game plan against the Cavs was evident from the first quarter: trapping the two most dominant ball handlers and let them make difficult decisions.

Clarkson and Sexton shot with 25% from the field goal combined (6/24) and 0 on 7 threes attempted. You can consider the mission achieved without any other adjustments on the ball screen defense.

But in a quite comfortable 102-95 win – the Wolves secured a lead at the end of the first quarter for the entire match – there have been some shortcomings.


Blitzing on Clarkson

This is something that didn’t work at all before the Butler’s trade. Hard double teams on point guards like Lowry exposed too frequently at easy pocket passes for the screener.

But the Wolves improved a lot in tagging off on the roll man.

Dieng recovers properly on Nance, but look how Saric briefly bumps on Nance before sprinting back out to Korver. Tyus is phenomenal as a helper, he’s always available as the first tagger, he also stole or deflected the ball on multiple possessions.

The downside of this strategy, whether the helper is ready or not, is that the screener is left momentarily unattended.

Cavs short rolls

It’s almost impossible to prevent every pocket pass, especially when blitzing on an efficient level is still a new thing.

Thompson and Nance facilitated the offense around the elbow and navigating along the baseline.

Points in the paint

Minnesota outscored Cleveland in the paint by 14 points. Nevertheless, according to NBA/stats, the Cavs were able to find more shots in the restristect area.


A lot of these were on high-low actions between Thompson and the roller at the elbow. But they also missed several easy layups.


Can you live with Wiggins shooting slump if he keeps playing defense?

In the last two games, he scored 1 on 15 field goal attempts combined in the first half. What is alarming is not so much his efficiency, but his confidence (that also led to a worse shot selection).

Covington had a bad shooting night too against the Bulls, then he came back on track with the Cavs taking the same shots with the same rhythm, he finished with 24 points (57% from 3).

He can beat Korver every time, relying on these step back jumpers when he has a solid mismatch to attack is killing him as a scorer.

On the other side, he’s doing a great job defensively. When he guarded Osman he limited his playmaking and his ability to create out of the handoffs.

Is this 4th quarter defense sustainable?

Over the past 8 games, the Wolves allowed just 38% from the field goal in the last quarter (66/166). We can argue that the last two opponents weren’t that competitive and all of them are plagued by injuries (Markkanen and Dunn, Love, Hill and J.R.), but Minnesota proved to be locked in defensively also against full loaded teams like New Orleans, Portland, and Denver.


Close game, suffered win

In the last Wolves win over the Spurs, Towns dominated on the defensive boards. Something that didn’t happen in this season opener.

Covington and Saric will help to fill that gap this time. But the Spurs will be able to guard the Wolves transition in the second half and they’ll drain 3’s. Thibs has to be ready to balance defensive strategies on the perimeter to contain Forbes and Rudy Gay. Wiggins is going to have a big offensive game. It will be a low margin victory for Minnesota.

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