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Wolves Ready To Regroup After Tough Road Trip

by Katie Davidson
Digital Content Associate

Well, the Wolves knew this season could present some adversity. For a team incorporating a brand new system that prioritizes long-term goals, a short-term skid was pretty much unavoidable. But now, as they return from a winless road trip that tacked on four losses to their five-game losing streak, it’s all about how they respond to said adversity.

“I’m always positive, but I’m also always realistic, too,” Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders said when asked about how the Wolves can regroup after Wednesday’s shootaround. “The realistic viewpoint is that for us to get back to where we want to be and improve, we have to do the right things.”

Without missing a beat, Saunders knew that meant addressing what went wrong defensively while on the road.

“We did a number of things this morning, but we have to get back to playing within our principles and being solid and not trying to do too much,” Saunders said. “And that comes through drill work, that comes through commitment to the defensive end, and understanding that that was a big part of why we had some early success.”

Saunders mentioned close-outs, pick-and-roll defense, shot contests, rebounding and staying solid in fundamentals as areas of the Wolves’ defensive game that need improvement. That may sound like a lofty list, but the Wolves are willing to tackle all areas of their game if it means avoiding a six-, seven- or eight-game losing streak.

“I know it’s a natural thing where you might have slippage, but we understand that we can’t afford to have that for a long period of time,” Saunders said. “We’ve had lengthy film sessions, we’ve had good communication as a group, and we were able to treat this morning more like a light practice with stations and some drill work to try to visit those areas.”

Karl-Anthony Towns believes this will be an easy fix — if the Wolves stay focused.

“It’s as easy as we make it,” Towns said. “If we’re focused, it’ll be an easy fix and we’ll be able to show why we were so great early on in the season tonight. But if we’re not focused and not committed to doing it, then obviously it’ll be a little harder.”

The Wolves will be tasked with turning things around against a hungry Utah Jazz team that has lost six of its last 10 games. Minnesota and Utah split their first two matchups back in the third week of November, but it’s likely the Jazz will attempt to switch things up against the Wolves in Wednesday night’s game considering their own recent skid.

“I’ve known (Utah’s head coach Quin Snyder) for a bit here, and he’s always prepared,” Saunders said. “This is going to be a tough game for both teams because we both know how badly we want to win a game here. They’ll be ready, so I’m sure they’ll have different wrinkles as well, too. There’ll be things we have to adjust to, but we feel like we have a good plan going into the game.”

Offensively, the Wolves will have to prepare for the Jazz attempting to limit Towns’ touches as they did in their Nov. 20 win at Target Center in which Towns took 10 total shots.

“We just have to go out there and commit to our game plan,” Towns said. “If they’re going to do that and put me in a box-and-one, we have to utilize each other’s abilities and find ways to score.”

If the Wolves follow through with committing to defensive discipline and lean on each other during moments of adversity, they should return to the win column in no time.

Culver Shows Love For Brother’s 100-Point Game

It was just a normal off day for Jarrett Culver on Tuesday. Per usual, he was spending his night at the gym, but as he was leaving, his phone began to blow up.

“I was like, ‘What happened?’ and everybody’s texting me, ‘Your brother, your brother.’ I was like, ‘No way.’ I FaceTimed him. I had no idea what to say, I was just shocked like I was dreaming. It was unreal.”

That was Culver’s retelling of when he found out that his older brother J.J. Culver, who plays for Wayland Baptist University, scored 100 (!) points in his team’s 124-60 win over Southwestern Adventist University on Tuesday.

I don’t think Jarrett ever stopped smiling when answering questions about J.J. and his historic game.

“We’re real close,” Culver said. “Me and my family have a close-knit bond, and me and my brothers basically do everything together. To see (J.J.) do that, people don’t see the work you put in. He’s the first one back in the gym after scoring 100 points so that just shows the character he has and the person he is.”

Culver may not be dropping 100 points in an NBA game anytime soon, but he has shown improvement since he moved to the starting lineup in replace of Jeff Teague on Nov. 25. Since then, Culver is averaging 10.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists. He shared he’s mostly focused on his defensive game along with staying committed to his offensive role after Wednesday’s shootaround.

“(I’m) just trying to be versatile and help the team out in whatever way I can,” Culver said. “I try to bring it more on the defensive end, and we’ve got a lot of great players on this team, a lot of unselfish players, so just me playing my role to help the team win, I’m going to try to do that the best I can.”

And Culver, like his team, wasn’t deterred by the winless road trip.

“It was tough, and this road trip didn’t come out like we wanted it to, but I feel like it brought us closer as a team, and we’re still on a mission. We can’t forget about the long-term goal, and we can’t let adversity change who we are.”

The Wolves and Jazz are scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. on Wednesday on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO.

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