Column: Finding The Road Warrior Mentality

Column: Finding The Road Warrior Mentality

Timberwolves players and coaches alike preached from Day 1 that winning at home is crucial two winning in this league, and they’re right. So far Minnesota is 6-2 at Target Center, and aside from a tough loss to the Clippers and a Klay Thompson light’s out performance for the Warriors, Minnesota has done about everything it can do to protect its home court.

But the other part of the equation is winning on the road—the goal being the old adage of sweeping at home, splitting on the road. That hasn’t been as easy a task in 2013-14 for the Wolves, who are now 2-5 on the road after a 112-101 loss to the Rockets in Houston last night. Now the Houston game is one of those you have to almost concede to incredible 3-point shooting—the Rockets shot 17-of-31 from distance last night. Minnesota simply could not keep up.

“When you try to make runs and they kept hitting 3’s,” Kevin Love said. “We showed fight but in the end it’s really tough when the first three shots of the fourth quarter from three and they hit three in a row. That kind of made it tough for us to come back but we continued to fight and cut it to ten and then they kept hitting threes. It was tough.”

For the Wolves, it doesn’t get any easier with Indiana coming up at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Monday night. That begins a stretch in which Minnesota plays nine of its next 14 on the road, and one of those four home games will be played against the Spurs in Mexico City. This is a stretch that will tell us a lot about this Wolves team and if they can start gaining a “road warrior” mentality.

So I got to wondering what the biggest difference is between the Wolves’ home and road games by the numbers. What is the biggest disparity between being 6-2 at home and being 2-5 on the road?

The numbers show that it’s not that big of a change. Really, the biggest separation between home and road is on the road Minnesota’s defense does give up about six more points per game and the Wolves tend to find themselves in situations where they give up larger runs without finding a way to get a stop.

Here’s how it breaks down:

At home, Minnesota scores 108.5 points per game, third in the NBA behind the Clippers and Mavericks. They shoot 43 percent from the field, average 25.1 assists per night and turn the ball over 13.3 times a game. On the road, they average 105.0 points per game, against third in the league behind the Rockets and Heat. They shoot 43.3 percent from the field, average 23.0 assists per game and turn the ball over 14.4 times a game.

Defensively, the Wolves are giving up 103.6 points on the road while holding teams to 97.0 points per game at home. That includes giving up 81 points to the Thunder, 88 to the Celtics and 81 to the Nets on their home court. At Target Center, Minnesota has held teams under 100 points in four of their eight games. On the road, they’ve held opponents under 100 in two of their seven games.

Big runs have been another key component in this. The Wolves gave up runs to Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena earlier this year and fell behind by 23 on the road. They fell behind by 13 in the fourth to the Clippers at Staples Center, they gave up a third quarter run to Washington at Verizon Center and they couldn’t get a comeback put together in Houston because of that strong 3-point shooting.

A couple other interesting notes (according to Yahoo! Sports’ statistics page): When the Wolves play on no rest (or in the tail-end of back-to-backs), they score 100.8 points per game and shoot 39.7 percent from the field, including 28.1 percent from 3. With one day’s rest, they score 109.9 points per game, shoot 45 percent from the field and 37.2 percent from 3. On two day’s rest, they score 100.0 points per game, shoot 43.5 percent (and 35.7 percent from 3), and in their lone game with three day’s rest against the Magic on opening night the Wolves scored 120 points and shot 42 percent from the field (and 37.8 percent from 3).

As we go into this next week or two of basketball, keep those stats in mind when the Wolves play back-to-back or have a day or two of rest. Their points per game aren’t incredibly different considering they score about 100 points per game on zero or two days rest, but the 3-point shooting really declines coming off a back-to-back. And when it comes to stopping runs, 3-point shooting does swing momentum pretty quickly.

The bottom line is the Wolves are finding ways to pull out victories at home but haven’t quite become the road warriors yet this season. There is still a lot of time for this to happen, but they will need to get into that mode quickly here with their upcoming schedule mostly away from Target Center. If they do, it will go a long way toward getting this team where it wants to go.

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