The Minnesota Timberwolves won in the most un-Timberwolves way possible Monday night. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Wolves were down nine points to the Portland Trail Blazers in a game that would determine which team would hold fourth place in the Western Conference -- the top of the non-Warriors/Rockets/Spurs tier. For the Timberwolves this season, being down nine points going into the fourth quarter would seem a death knell. Whatever the reason -- and many basketball pundits have decided the reason is the same old Tom Thibodeau narrative, where an over-reliance on his starting five means his best players are gassed by the end of games -- the Wolves have not been a good fourth-quarter team. By some metrics, in fact, they are the worst fourth-quarter team in the NBA. Check out the numbers: In the first three quarters of games, the Timberwolves ought to be considered among the NBA's elite. Their net rating through three quarters of games is plus-4.8. If they were able to keep that net rating for four quarters, that would rank fourth in the NBA -- behind the Warriors, Rockets and Raptors and virtually tied with the Celtics. It's in the fourth quarter of games where they fall apart. The Wolves' net rating in fourth quarters is minus-10.1. That's the worst in the NBA, and drags what would have been an impressive overall net rating all the way down to a middling 11th. This is not a new problem. Last season's Timberwolves lost 22 games in which they held double-digit leads. They lost 11 games when they led by 15 or more points, a feat that hadn't been accomplished by an NBA team since the 1996-97 season. If just half of those blown 10-point leads had turned into wins, the Wolves would have morphed from one of the worst teams in the NBA into a playoff team.
Is Tom Thibodeau really burning out his young Timberwolves? He has a rationale
CBS Sports | Dec 19