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12/4 Wolves in Mexico

Tonight the Wolves face the Spurs in a "home game" in Mexico City, Mexico. As if the schedule couldn't be any more brutal. The Wolves will have their work cut out for them as well, as the Spurs as surging again despite the fact that everyone on that team is 85 years old. A few thoughts on where the team seems to be struggling of late will now follow.

As much as people tend to discuss the Wolves' lack of defensive efforts, I am really of the camp that offensive efficiency remains the de facto problem. Now, I don't want to underscore disasters like the Denver game, where Love and Pek couldn't have been paid triple their salaries to rotate or contest a shot inside against a team constantly attacking the rim, but I'd say it''s more like a 60/40 split of offense to defense. Here are two significant examples:

1. According to Teamrankings.com, the Wolves are 3rd in points per game at 105.9, but are 28th in 4th quarter points per game at 22.7. 

2. The Wolves are 5th in 3 point attempts in the league at 24.1 per game, but 25th in percentage at 32.8%.

I have a few thoughts on these numbers and the Wolves' offensive "struggles" as a whole. Some of which may be applied to the above. As much as having a "rim protector" would help throughout the game immensely, it will not solve these offensive issues that become more prevalent in late game, intense situations (otherwise known as 4th quarters):
 
1. This team really struggles to score when a play isn't executed flawlessly, even though this team puts up considerable points. Broken plays/half court sets (aka 4th quarters) are an issue. When the play breaks down, the Wolves lack the ballhandlers to get up a quality, high percentage shot. In fact, we really only have one player in the starting 5 who can do that in Kevin Martin unless the ball is quickly dumped into Pek/Love in the post.
2. Part of this is the Wolves don't really have a guy who can shoot well off the dribble, which makes a huge difference in late game situations when the game is slowed down considerably. 
3. Too many (usually mid-range) jumpshot attempts from low percentage spots on the court from Corey Brewer and Rubio. This is ignoring basic statistical probability and wasting possessions. Unless it's on a break/inside or from the left corner, Brewer should not be shooting the ball. 

4.  The starters are a group of set shooters, with the exception of Martin to some degree, and of course Pek in the post. Brewer, for example, is a disaster shooting off of the dribble, yet he does it a few times per game. I was at the Dallas game and while in the restroom (where they have the game playing on the radio) caught a stat from Rick Carlisle on the radio that Brewer has not made a mid range shot off the dribble ONE TIME this season, yet he continues to shoot those shots. I have been unable to verify this statistic but I assume it is mostly true. Though Rubio has improved the mid range the last few games, whenever either of those two shoot a mid range shot off the dribble you might as well gift wrap the ball to the other team. A wasted possession the majority of the time. 

One could dig up tons of stuff like this on the Wolves' offense. A realistically acquirable rim protector doesn't fix this in the slightest, nor coaxes Love to, heaven forbid, contest a jumpshot from an opposing matchup ("defending" without fouling!). It's poor offensive efficiency like this that has a greater impact. It is just harder to notice because the Wolves still put a lot of points up on the board. It's poor shooting from three in addition to poor offensive flow and shooting low percentage, often contested jump shots off the dribble after just one or two passes. These issues are compounded in the 4th against tighter coverage when the game is slowed down and transition basket opportunities are less likely.
 
I'm not saying rim protection wouldn't help, but, as an example, trading Pek for Omer Asik would yield the exact same problems as before in the halfcourt. I'm not sure what the answer is with this group other than they need to move the ball around more and look for open shots. And Brewer/Rubio need to shoot less in the half court, unless it's in a spot where they shoot a high percentage (Rubio straight on 3, or Brewer left corner or inside). Basic probability. Take the shots that have the highest percentage chance of generating points.
 
Hopefully the Wolves can improve on these over time as the quantity of games becomes much more forgiving in the coming weeks, allowing the team ample rest and preparation. I think it will.
 
While in Mexico, the Wolves have of course been involved in community efforts in expanding the brand of basketball to Mexico. A correspondent from NBA.com was nice enough to request we post details and photos of one of these such events. Check it out after the jump:
 
Yesterday players from Minnesota Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs participated in a unified clinic in Mexico City with 50 local Special Olympics Athletes and the Triqui Basketball Team as part of 2013 NBA Global Games. I’ve attached some great photos from the event here. Below is some background on the Special Olympics and the Triqui Basketball Team.



The NBA Global Games Mexico City 2013 presented by Samsung tips off a regular-season game tonight between the two teams at the Mexico City Arena. The game will air live on NBA TV in the U.S. and throughout Mexico and Latin America on ESPN. The game will also be available to fans in 215 countries and territories through television, online or NBA LEAGUE PASS International.



Background on NBA & Special Olympics

Special Olympics Unified Sports® is an inclusive sports program that combines an equal number of Special Olympics athletes (individuals with intellectual disabilities) and partners/teammates (individuals without intellectual disabilities) on teams for training and competition.



Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the partnership in 2014, NBA Cares will continue to highlight Special Olympics’ key initiatives through support from NBA Ambassadors and programming during marquee NBA events, such as NBA All-Star, NBA Global Games and Basketball without Borders.



Yesterday players from Minnesota Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs participated in a unified clinic in Mexico City with 50 local Special Olympics Athletes and the Triqui Basketball Team as part of 2013 NBA Global Games. I’ve attached some great photos from the event here. Below is some background on the Special Olympics and the Triqui Basketball Team.



The NBA Global Games Mexico City 2013 presented by Samsung tips off a regular-season game tonight between the two teams at the Mexico City Arena. The game will air live on NBA TV in the U.S. and throughout Mexico and Latin America on ESPN. The game will also be available to fans in 215 countries and territories through television, online or NBA LEAGUE PASS International.



Background on NBA & Special Olympics

Special Olympics Unified Sports® is an inclusive sports program that combines an equal number of Special Olympics athletes (individuals with intellectual disabilities) and partners/teammates (individuals without intellectual disabilities) on teams for training and competition.



Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the partnership in 2014, NBA Cares will continue to highlight Special Olympics’ key initiatives through support from NBA Ambassadors and programming during marquee NBA events, such as NBA All-Star, NBA Global Games and Basketball without Borders.



Background on Triqui Basketball Team

Based in Oaxaca, the Triqui basketball team made headlines this fall when they won the International Festival of Mini-Basketball championship held in Argentina – despite playing barefoot. Through sports and education, professor Sergio Zúñiga hoped to rescue the youth of the Triqui communities of Oaxaca from extreme poverty and violence. In 2009, Zúñiga founded the athletic project Academia de Baloncesto Indígena México.

Based in Oaxaca, the Triqui basketball team made headlines this fall when they won the International Festival of Mini-Basketball championship held in Argentina – despite playing barefoot. Through sports and education, professor Sergio Zúñiga hoped to rescue the youth of the Triqui communities of Oaxaca from extreme poverty and violence. In 2009, Zúñiga founded the athletic project Academia de Baloncesto Indígena México.
 
Here are some photos:
 
 
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