Shabazz Muhummad has been killing it for Minnesota as of late. He was the X-Factor in the second quarter. In fact, his 16 points in the second quarter outscored the Spurs by 2 points.
— NBA (@NBA) March 22, 2017
Jonathan Simmons shot a buzzer-beating three to end the half and spoil Muhummad’s stat of outscoring the entire team himself. The Timberwolves still took a 51-42 lead at the half.
Unfortunately, that energy the Timberwolves had quickly disappeared, committing 10 turnovers in the third quarter while missing open looks. They did manage to cut the lead to 2 points with 2 minutes remaining, but the turnovers late plagued the young team. With free throws propelling the Spurs’ lead, they would escape Minnesota with a 100-93 win and still be a factor for the number one seed in the Western Conference.
The Timberwolves are in serious danger of missing the playoffs for the 13th consecutive year, the longest drought in the NBA.
The major problem with Minnesota is the fact that they cannot close games. In 15 games games this season, Minnesota was up at the half, but ultimately lost the game. In 17 games this season, Minnesota was up in double figures and still lost their games. And of course, the game against the Houston Rockets. The Timberwolves were up 12 points with two minutes left, but James Harden and company tied the game to go into overtime, ultimately giving Minnesota a 111-109 loss.
Let’s hypothetically break this down. Let’s say Minnesota won all of the games that they led in. They would currently be 44-15. That would put them at the fourth seed. Crazy right? So, it is to be shown that Minnesota can execute on both sides of the ball, but they fall apart in the second half, which has ultimately costed them a pretty nice playoff spot.
The Spurs entered the game two games back of Golden State. Golden State defeated the Mavericks, so they still maintain being up two games on San Antonio. Kawhi Leonard was very quiet in the first half, only putting up a pair, but turned it up in the second half defensively, with the offense following shortly.
Fortunately for Minnesota, they are a young team with work that can be fixed. However, at some point, they will have to realize that they can’t keep riding that narrative especially if they are consistently up in a lot of their games. They have the talent, but they just have to execute for a full 40 minutes.