Wolves focusing on self-improvement amid grueling schedule

MINNEAPOLIS — Rather than salivate over the potential

recovery contests that await them this week, the Timberwolves are taking more

of an internally centered approach.

“We’re focusing on ourselves,” small forward Corey

Brewer said after practice Monday, shortly before the team boarded a

Detroit-bound plane.

There’s plenty of room for concern.

In dropping seven of its past nine contests — albeit

against the cream of the Western Conference crop and the best the East

currently has to offer — Minnesota has departed from facets that staked it to

a 6-3 start and brought hopes this revamped squad could turn a considerable

corner.

There’s still plenty of time to make that happen. Without

fixing deficiencies soon, it won’t.

“I think you try to balance it a little bit, because

you look at the teams we’ve played in the last two weeks — awful good

teams,” Adelman said. “But we have to play better.”

In a light shooting session Sunday and a full-boar practice

Monday, Adelman addressed two primary areas of need with his team: shot

selection and transition defense.

The Timberwolves are shooting just a tad over 40 percent in

their past nine games and have shot 37.8 or worse three times during that

stretch. The lowest valley came Saturday against Miami when Minnesota made a

franchise-worst 29.3 percent of its shot attempts.

A team that’s lived up to its bidding as an offensive power,

even after the 103-82 Miami loss, is the NBA’s No. 4 scoring team at 104.7

points per game. But Minnesota is still taking ill-advised shots, forcing

passes and chucking up 3-pointers when they aren’t necessary.

“We’ve got to take better shots,” Adelman said.

“We’re not shooting the ball that well, so we’ve got to find a way to be

more efficient.”

Since a Nov. 19 loss to Washington that kick-started

Minnesota’s current rough stretch, the Timberwolves have given up 20.7

fast-break points per game and more total (187) than any other NBA team during

that span. Adelman’s top defenders, Brewer included, are taking too many risks,

the coach said.

“I think we have too many guys who gamble too

much,” Adelman said.

This week presents two prime opportunities at rectification

against the lowly, laughingstock Eastern Conference. Tuesday’s trip to Detroit

(10-11) won’t be a walk through Belle Isle Park, but the Pistons haven’t

defeated a Western Conference team aside from Sacramento (5-13) and are the

most manageable matchup Minnesota will have seen since Nov. 22 against

far-worse-than-expected Brooklyn.

The Timberwolves return home Wednesday to host Philadelphia,

which began the year 3-0 but is 4-14 since then.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, they’ll have Kevin

Love back for both games. The All-Star power forward missed Saturday’s outing

to be with his family in Portland, Ore., and mourn the loss of his maternal

grandmother.

The 76ers and Detroit are both 1-6 against Western

Conference competition, reflecting a wider NBA state of affairs in which only

three Eastern organizations — Miami, Indiana and Atlanta — possess a winning

record. Minnesota, conversely, was one of just five teams in the West that sat

below .500 as of Monday afternoon.

“In the Eastern Conference this year, you can make the

playoffs if you’re below .500,” said Brewer, who has spent his entire

seven-season pro career in the West. “In the Western Conference, you’ve

got to win like 50 games, it seems, to make the playoffs.”

“I’ve never seen anything like that. It’s crazy.”

Said Adelman: “There’s teams that people thought were

gonna be good in the East that are not playing well at all, but the West is.

There are so many teams that are right around above-.500 or close to it. … I’ve

not seen disparity like this in a long time.”

But it doesn’t matter, Adelman said, because there’s enough

to think about on the home front without seeing the early-December league

standings.

After falling to the likes of Indiana, Miami, Oklahoma City,

Houston and the Clippers during the past two 2 ½ weeks, Minnesota can’t afford

to fall much further behind the rest of the wide-open West. San Antonio, then a

rest-of-December slate that’s almost equivalent to that of November, lurk

around the corner.

“Our schedule is brutal until January,” Adelman

said, “so you’ve got to go out, and you’ve got to get some wins now.”

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