Thibodeau’s defense becoming ‘muscle memory’ for Wolves

Andrew Wiggins says head coach Tom Thibodeau's defensive lessons are starting to stick.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Thibodeau seems to have drilled the importance of defense into the brains of his Minnesota Timberwolves.

He has drilled it to the extent that young star Andrew Wiggins called the Wolves’ defense “muscle memory” after a 107-80 win over the Utah Jazz on March 1.

That “muscle memory” has paid off, as the Timberwolves own the NBA’s second-best defensive rating (100.0) since the All-Star break. This means Minnesota has only allowed 100 points per 100 possessions since Feb. 20, behind only Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs (98.6).

Opponents have only scored 98.3 points per game against the Wolves since the All-Star break, compared to an average of 105.7 points before the break.

Minnesota will be faced with a tough defensive task on Monday night when it hosts John Wall and the Washington Wizards. Washington beat Minnesota 112-105 on Jan. 6 to improve its record to 17-18, but since then, the Wizards are a league-best 25-6.

OTHER NOTES

— Reliance on starters: The Timberwolves’ starters combine for 78.5 percent of the team’s points, while the Wizards see 77.6 percent of their scoring come from starters.

— Karl-Anthony Towns has recorded a double-double in 75.4 percent of his games this season.

— Ricky Rubio’s 22-point performance in a 102-95 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks was one of the best shooting performances of his career. He shot 64 percent from the field, third best in his career when he puts up over 10 field-goal attempts.