HomeBasketball TodayMagic Strikes Again! Timberwolves' Gobert & Edwards Left Stunned by Late-Game Collapse

Magic Strikes Again! Timberwolves’ Gobert & Edwards Left Stunned by Late-Game Collapse

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The Minnesota Timberwolves’ late-game offense fell apart once again in a hard-fought Friday loss to the Orlando Magic.

Poor fourth quarter showings have become a problematic trend as of late for the Minnesota Timberwolves.  Prior to Friday night, Minnesota had four different fourth quarters scoring 22 points or less in their last seven games. Three of those poor showings resulted in frustrating losses to the San Antonio Spurs, Charlotte Hornets and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Behind sloppy turnovers, poor shot selection and a disjointed plan of attack offensively, the Timberwolves fourth-quarter demons reappeared against the Orlando Magic on Friday in a 108-106 loss at Target Center.

Timberwolves’ offense bogs down late

Timberwolves' Anthony Edwards

The Magic-Timberwolves matchup projected to be a good defensive battle as a pair of top-five defenses squared off. A low-scoring slugfest brewed throughout the night, especially in the second half. After a solid third quarter, Minnesota led Orlando 88-80. From there, the Magic turned up the pressure and forced the Timberwolves offense to bog down.

With Minnesota looking to put Orlando away, the team trended toward isolation basketball. That decision was not successful as the Magic are one of the only teams in the association that can matchup with the Timberwolves’ size. Jonathan Isaac took on Karl-Anthony Towns late in the game and handled him well one-on-one. Isaac’s length allowed Orlando to avoid double-teaming KAT in the post.

From there, Anthony Edwards was left to run the offense, at times working a two-man game with Gobert but more often settling for jump shots off the dribble in space. In the fourth quarter, Edwards shot eight times and made just three of those attempts. Four of his eight shot attempts came from behind the three-point line and he connected just once. While Edwards was great on the night (22 points, 9-18 shooting), the Timberwolves’ offense simply cannot afford to become reliant on tough shot-making down the stretch of close games.

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Rudy Gobert emphasizes ball movementRudy Gobert

Minnesota’s offense, simply put, is at its best when the ball moves and they are decisive on the offensive end. No players on the roster better embody that dynamic than Jaden McDaniels, who Chris Finch often calls the team’s offensive barometer, and Rudy Gobert.

To start the game, Minnesota jumped all over Orlando behind a series of quick passes, post-ups and lob dunks. The ball was moving and the Wolves were putting points on the board. Six minutes into the action, the Magic had scored just nine points and Gobert had 11 by himself.

Gobert’s offensive game is mostly predicated on timely positioning as teammates find him close to the basket off drives and dumps, screen and rolls or the occasional post-up. All of those things were working to perfection as Gobert’s early offense pushed the Wolves out to a solid lead early. By the end of the first half, Gobert had 17 points on 5-6 shooting and 7-7 from the stripe as his positioning oftentimes draws numerous fouls.

Postgame, ClutchPoints asked Gobert how valuable timely ball movement is to his offensive production.

“Really important. I’m not a guard so I don’t get to bring the ball up,” he said. “I really depend on my teammates looking for me and on us playing the right way offensively.”

To his point, Gobert’s scoring output is often a direct reflection of the Timberwolves’ offensive process and how they’re reading and attacking the defense. Going into the second half, the Minnesota’s ball movement dried up along with Gobert’s production.

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Gobert shared his thoughts on the cause of Minnesota’s fourth quarter meltdowns, saying, “The ball gets sticky. We stop spacing for each other. Um, yeah, I don’t get the ball anymore. You know, I got to go offensive rebound… I think it makes it harder on ourselves.”

Anthony Edwards takes the blameTimberwolves' Anthony Edwards saying "I gotta stop" and Rudy Gobert

While Edwards has had phenomenal fourth quarters at times this season, his decision-making occasionally plays into the Wolves’ late-game offensive struggles. When asked postgame about “hero ball,” Edwards assigned blame on himself.

“I gotta stop holding the ball, taking bad shots, I guess. I’ve got to be better,” he said.

At just 22 years of age, Edwards has shown a good deal of maturity with how he handles these crushing losses. His willingness to take credit for the Wolves’ failures at times makes it much easier to bet on his continued development as a decision-maker. While hiccups will come along the way, there have been numerous times that Edwards has delivered down the stretch this season.

With the recent collection of poor fourth quarters, it will be essential for Edwards and the Timberwolves to find their strengths and play to them for a full 48 minutes each night.

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