Two seasons ago, the Minnesota Timberwolves ranked in the bottom five in defensive efficiency for the second straight year. Then they hired Tom Thibodeau, widely accepted as the best defensive coach in the league. Last season, they ranked in the bottom five again.
This summer, they traded for Jimmy Butler, one of the league's best perimeter defenders and a Thibodeau guy. Twelve games into the season, the Wolves still rank in the bottom five defensively. And when a 14-0 Phoenix run turned a Minnesota lead into a loss on Saturday, it was more about the 14 than the zero, as Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune writes...
"The scoring wasn't the issue," Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. "To me, you allow 118 points, we have a four-point lead with four minutes to go and we have the ball. We have to execute and we didn't execute."
The Wolves still had a 103-99 lead and the ball with 4:09 left and then went scoreless on possession after possession, starting with big man Karl-Anthony Towns' missed three-pointer. After that, Teague lost the ball, committing a turnover. Butler stepped out of bounds on a baseline drive. Andrew Wiggins missed a 16-foot pullup shot and Butler's forced 31-foot banked shot near the 24-second shot clock's end missed.
Afterward, Butler didn't look at the shots missed, rushed or not taken. He pointed to the defensive stops that never came.
"We didn't guard," Butler said. "It's hard to win in this league when you're constantly trying to outscore the other team. Yeah, we can score, but we make it a lot easier on ourselves if we decide to play defense. We have to do it. We have to stop giving up 100 or whatever we gave up the last couple games, pretty much all year. We've got to be better. I've got to be the one that sets that tone, man."