Third Quarter Key Tonight As Wolves Host Clippers

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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A key component to tonight’s game against the Clippers will be how the Timberwolves play coming out of halftime—something the team has not done particularly well over their four-game losing streak.

Over their past four games, Minnesota has found themselves in big holes coming out of the third quarter thanks to a mix of opponents’ sharp shooting and the Wolves cooling off from the field. During that stretch, opponents have shot an average of 59.9 percent from the field—topped off by Dallas’ 71.4 percent performance on Monday—and have produced an average biggest lead of 15.25 points during the third.

Meanwhile, Minnesota shot 25 percent against New Orleans in the third on Saturday and has shot an average of 42.3 percent from the floor in those past four third quarters.

“That’s been a concern,” coach Terry Porter said. “Obviously some of it’s been our inability to make shots, stop teams’ momentum.”

The question is how do the Wolves rectify that trend? Minnesota has been outscored in the third quarter in each of their last nine games, dating back to a 17-17 tie against Houston in the third on Dec. 26. The last time Minnesota outscored an opponent in the third was Dec. 15 against the Dallas Mavericks.

Wolves forward Derrick Williams said one of the biggest issues during their four-game losing streak is turning it on too late. They’re digging themselves big holes, and then they’re running out of time during their comeback attempts late.

“We’ve got to come ready to play in the third quarter—that’s where we’re losing the game,” Williams said. “It’s been the third quarter every single game. We look at it, looked at the film. In the third quarter, they’re outscoring us by 10-15 points every time.”

Guard J.J. Barea said it’s an issue of consistency. The Wolves have good stretches, but their lapses come in the first 12 minutes of the second half.

“I think we’re just coming out flat,” Barea said. “I think the other teams are doing a good job coming out of halftime and picking up their defense. I think that’s been bothering us.”

Tonight they host a Clippers team that is 12-5 on the road, is averaging 102.1 points per game and have been one of the more consistent teams in the NBA throughout the season. Being able to come out of halftime and take control of tonight’s game could mean the difference between winning and losing. And with the Wolves currently 2 ½ games out of the eighth spot in the West, getting back on track tonight is exactly what this team needs after their four-game trip.

“It’s just a combination of everything—we’re coming out and teams are going on runs, and the NBA is a game of runs,” Wolves forward Dante Cunningham said. “They come out, they hit their runs, and we’re kind of weathering the storm. But then we fight back in the end and kind of run out of gas.”

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