Timberwolves clutch play holding them back

The Minnesota Timberwolves currently rank second in the league in points per game and fifth in offensive rating. This is a team that should be talked about among the Western Conference Playoff teams at the very least and certainly a team that should have no doubt about its place in the Western Conference's pecking order.

Things are not so comfortable in Minneapolis however. Frustration continues to grow as each time the Timberwolves are set to get above .500, they falter.

A big reason for those failures can be directly pointed toward their record in close games which is amazingly just 1-13 in situations where the game is within five points with less than five minutes remaining, and an even more amazing 1-9 in sutations when the score is within three points with less than 10 seconds remaining.

These are numbers that are supposed to come out at about even. Close games are supposed to be truly 50/50 propositions and good teams are great at avoiding them and winning the close games they do play more often than not.

That is what the law of averages says. The Timberwolves though cannot seem to avoid enough of these games and they cannot seem to win their fair share of them. That has Minnesota in 10th in the Western Conference and below .500.

You cannot blame Kevin Love and the Wolves for their frustration in these close games. Literally, games have been taken from them because of their poor play and by pure dumb luck.

What they can fix is their play. The team has put up some horrid stats in crunch time that needs some desperate fixing.

Currently the Wolves post a 105.2 offensive rating. However in the clutch the offensive rating dips to 97.3. That is not a dip, that is a crash of 7.5 percent when the going gets tough. The team's defensive rating gets significantly worse going from 102.3 overall to 120.0 in crunch time — a horrific 17.3 percent increase.

The team's effective field goal percentage drops to 40.6 percent and the team allows the pace to increase to 110.2.

This is the sign of a team that is getting afraid of the big moments. Maybe that is a bit unfair, but the numbers suggest the Timberwolves are rushing through their sets and that the poor record is getting into their head.

The surprising thing is that Minnesota's first win was a confidence-boosting come-from-behind overtime win that required a last-second 3-pointer from Kevin Love. This is a team capable of making the big plays. They just are not right now.

If Minnesota has plans on making the Playoffs, this trend needs to reverse itself pretty quick. Otherwise, these garish differences will cost the Timberwolves more than a few extra games in April.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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