These days for the Wolves, it’s all about the little things.
Their extended break is finally giving the team a chance to work out some of the kinks that cost them games against Portland and Utah last week.
Back at practice again Tuesday, coach Tom Thibodeau emphasized the importance of every possession, not just in these crucial late-season games, but throughout the entire season.
“You try to work the right way so you’re building the right habits, but you always work with the end in mind, and now [the team] is starting to see how important everything is,” he said. “Whether it’s a film session, a walkthrough, whatever it might be, it’s a drill, whatever we’re doing, you have to put everything you have into it.”
Games in March might feel more intense than games in November, but Thibodeau rightly pointed out that at the end of the day a win is a win and a loss is a loss, no matter what month it comes in, and a single play has the power to shape a season.
“It could be a block out on a free throw, it could be a loose ball, it could be a charge, you don’t know which play turns it. It can happen at any time during the game. You always have to have your guard up,” Thibodeau said.
Time to shine
Wolves stars Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins are excited by the opportunity to play meaningful games late in the season.
Veteran Taj Gibson and Thibodeau both spoke to the importance of Minnesota’s young stars learning how it feels to go up against teams that they have played many times in high stakes situations. This is especially relevant in the playoffs when teams can face their opponents up to seven times in a row.
“Your opponent’s going to know everything you’re doing, and you’re going to know everything they’re doing,” said Thibodeau. “So, it comes down to the base of your fundamentals; can you execute under duress? Can you impose your will on somebody?”
With a few tough games in the schedule ahead, the impulse for Wolves players might be to focus on their opponent, but Gibson said the most important thing is looking at themselves.
“You can’t really focus on the matchup aspect, you just have to focus on yourself and try to bring your teammates together, because at the end of the day everybody is a good NBA player. Everybody is here for a reason. It just comes down to doing the small things,” Gibson said.
Absent the veteran on-court leadership from Jimmy Butler, Towns and Wiggins will have plenty of opportunities to learn from experience—assisted by a coach doing his best to keep things in perspective.
“Thibs has been real patient, real easy going in how he’s communicating. He’s teaching on every single play, he’s real hands on and he’s trying to coach. It’s good for us,” said Gibson.