Covington, Wolves among NBA's best at steals, blocks

January 7, 2020

Things have been a lot better of late for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

After suffering through an injury-riddled 11-game losing streak and picking up their first win in December 26 days into the month, the Timberwolves have won four of their last six contests.

Defensively, Minnesota has looked like a new team.

Over their last 10 games, dating back to a 107-99 loss to New Orleans on Dec. 18, the Timberwolves rank first in the NBA with a 100.1 defensive rating. Minnesota is tied for the league lead with 10.1 steals per game and third with 7.0 blocks per contest over that span.

Broaden that out to the full season, and the Timberwolves aren’t too shabby, either.

Minnesota slots in at second in the league with an average of 15 combined steals and blocks per game, just behind the Los Angeles Lakers (16.0). The Timberwolves compiled 16 steals and eight blocked shots during Sunday’s 118-103 victory over Cleveland alone.

You can thank Robert Covington for that defensive production. Covington leads the Timberwolves in steals (54) and is second in blocks (32). In fact, Covington ranks second in blocks among NBA players 6-foot-7 and shorter. Andrew Wiggins, who is posting a career-best 1.1 blocks per game, isn’t too far down on that list at fourth with 29.

The Timberwolves’ defense will be put to the test Tuesday night against Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies have scored 110+ points in eight straight games, good for the longest streak in franchise history as well as the NBA’s longest current run.

Six players are averaging double figures for the Grizzlies, including second-year center Jaren Jackson (17.7 points per game) and Morant (17.6).

Memphis has just 15 wins to its name this year, but two are against the Timberwolves. After a horrendous 6-16 start, the Grizzlies are 9-6 over their last 15 games.


-- The Grizzlies have won nine of the last 13 matchups against Minnesota, dating back to the 2016-17 season.

-- Due to the number of injuries on Minnesota’s roster, the Timberwolves have turned to Shabazz Napier for production at guard. Over the last four contests, Napier is averaging 21.8 points and 6.3 assists in 32.2 minutes per game while shooting 55% from 3-point range.

-- Grizzlies big man Brandon Clarke is one of six reserves in the league to average 10+ points and 5+ rebounds off the bench.

-- Morant scores 9.5 points per game while driving to the hoop, which leads all rookies by a large margin. Miami’s Kendrick Nunn ranks second with 5.0 points.