The streaking Minnesota Timberwolves play the second leg of a back-to-back set on Saturday in Minneapolis, facing a Cleveland Cavaliers team looking to finish a five-game, Western Conference road trip on the right side of .500.
Minnesota scored its fifth win in the past six outings on Friday, beating the visiting Phoenix Suns 121-116. Anthony Edwards scored 31 points, leading six Timberwolves who finished in double figures. It was Edwards’ fourth game of 30-plus points in his past eight outings.
Edwards scored eight points in the final 1:30 on Friday, helping Minnesota avoid a late collapse. The Timberwolves led the Suns by as many as 24 points but were outscored in the fourth quarter 41-29.
“That’s something we’ve got to get better at,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said of the team’s fourth-quarter struggles. “Really good teams never get bored. … We’ve had a habit all season of building a lead, then kind of hijacking our momentum with bad shots and turnovers.”
Minnesota ranks among the league’s most turnover-prone teams, averaging around 16 per game. The Cavaliers are forcing just shy of 15 per game.
More central to Cleveland’s league-leading defensive yield of 106.9 points per game than takeaways, however, has been the Cavaliers holding opponents to just 38.9 made field goals a contest. That’s the lowest figure in the NBA.
The Cleveland offense was key the last time out, as the Cavaliers come into Minnesota off a 119-113 win at Portland on Thursday. Donovan Mitchell, Jarrett Allen and Darius Garland combined for 70 of the Cavaliers’ points, led by Mitchell’s 26.
Allen and Garland both recorded double-doubles, with Allen posting 24 points and 10 rebounds, as well as six assists, while Garland added 20 points and 10 assists. Along with Evan Mobley, who scored three of his 17 points in the final 1:44, the group helped power a 32-22 fourth quarter for the comeback win.
Mitchell, who scored 71 points in a victory against the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 2, lauded Allen’s offensive contributions following the win over the Trail Blazers.
“In (Allen’s) growth as a player, he’s understanding where to come in (and contribute on offense),” Mitchell said, according to Cleveland.com. “I’ve typically been the guy (to take shots) late, but I told him, ‘Look, teams are going to scout that, teams are going to be ready for that, teams are going to try to deny me the ball.’ Just him making big plays. That’s what he is capable of and continuously doing that on a nightly basis.”
The interior offense of Allen and Mobley will face a stiff challenge on Saturday against Minnesota. The Timberwolves rank among the NBA’s best when defending 2-point field-goal attempts, thanks in part to Rudy Gobert’s presence in the paint.
Gobert is averaging 1.3 blocked shots per game — his lowest average since his rookie season in 2013-14 — but Jaden McDaniels (1.1), Naz Reid (0.9), Kyle Anderson (0.7) and Edwards (0.5) are helping Minnesota rank near the top of the league in blocks per game.
Mobley and Allen average 1.3 and 1.2 blocks per game, respectively, to help bolster the stout Cleveland defense.
–Field Level Media