The art of thievery: Wolves creating opponent turnovers

One of the staples of Minnesota head coach Tom Thibodeau is defense. The Timberwolves are still working on that — just ask Jimmy Butler — but there’s one facet they’ve improved on: creating turnovers.

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Opponents have turned the ball over on average 16.0 times per game this season against the Wolves, which ranks sixth in the NBA. Last season, Minnesota’s opponents had 14.3 turnovers per game — that ranked tied for 14th and this year that rate would place the Timberwolves at tied for 21st.

Minnesota has stepped up its efforts recently even more.

Over the last three games, the Wolves have forced 67 turnovers. That’s the most for any NBA team over a three-game span this season.

Turnovers often lead to points, and Minnesota averaged 18.6 points per game off opponent miscues, which ranks 6th in the league.

The task might be a little tougher Monday as Minnesota’s opponent, Portland, is tied for 15th in the NBA with 15.0 turnovers per game.

When Tyus Jones is on the court, however, look for an uptick.

Jones is sixth in the NBA in steals per 48 minutes (3.2). Since Nov. 8, he’s had six games with three or more steals, including twice last week against Philadelphia and Phoenix (tallying three in both games).

Others on the Wolves who have shown the art of thievery are Jimmy Butler (2.4 steals per 48 minutes), Gorgui Dieng (2.2/48) and Jeff Teague (2.2/48).

Other notes:

— Karl-Anthony Towns has recorded a double-double in 71 percent of his games in his career (138 of 194). Since 2015-16, no one has a better percentage of double-doubles.

— Taj Gibson has 12 double-doubles for the Wolves already this season. He had 11 all of 2016-17.

— Portland’s Damian Lillard is second in the NBA in second-half points, averaging 14.6 thus far on the season.

Statistics courtesy STATS, NBA.com and basketball-reference.