The Minnesota Timberwolves are Clutch

The Minnesota Timberwolves' late-game performances have been stellar to start the 2017-2018 NBA season.

One of the best marks of good teams is how they perform late in games and how their “Clutch” stats compare to the rest of the league. The NBA defines clutch situations as games that have less than five minutes remaining and the score within five points. The teams with the highest win percentage in these cases last year were the Spurs at 67.4%, the Celtics at 65.3%, the Warriors at 64%, and the Cavaliers at 63.9%. Not surprisingly, these were the final four teams in the playoffs. These statistics show how good teams are at executing down the stretch which is often a good sign of maturity, team chemistry, and coaching.

In these clutch situations last year the Timberwolves had a win percentage of just 33.3% which was 28th in the league and a clear sign of why they drastically underperformed expectations. While going 15-30 in these games is less than ideal, the numbers that went into those results are just as bad. Any stat that you look at for the Timberwolves from last season in these situations ranks near the worst in the league. They had an offensive rating of 97.3 (28th), defensive rating of 111.6 (22nd), effective field goal percentage of 43.3% (26th), free throw percentage of 71.9% (27th), and a free throw attempt rate of .426. These are some of the more glaring categories, but any stat that you look at will appear towards the bottom of the league. They would often blow leads from missing free throws and playing sloppy defense. They would lose games because they wouldn’t be able to execute on offense and make the necessary shots. While it was encouraging that they were close in a lot of games last year, their performances were anything but impressive and a huge reason why they missed the playoffs for the 13th straight year.

Changes this season?

This year the Timberwolves late-game performances have been entirely different. So far they have been the most impressive team in clutch situations posting a 5-1 record, the highest win percentage in the league at 83.3%. During these games their statistical numbers have drastically improved from last year with their offensive rating of 125.2 (5th), effective field goal percentage of 55.2% (9th), free throw percentage of 89.3% (5th), and a free throw attempt rate of .583 (12th). The Timberwolves are not having the issues they did last year late in games as they are executing more efficiently on offense.