Third quarters determining the fate of the game has been a trend for both teams early in this season.
The Minnesota Timberwolves approached last night’s contest as a squad that had struggled mightily after halftime breaks (-33.1 net rating in 3rd quarters, now at -37.0), while the Charlotte Hornets had mounted many of their comebacks in that particular period (+33.1, now at +37.0).
It almost seems too good to be true, but the trend continued when the league’s best third quarter team met the worst one at Target Center.
Charlotte quickly cut down a 12-point deficit that it had obtained in the first half and turned it into a lead within three minutes and 23 seconds of the third period.
Intense possessions of defense forced the Wolves to commit turnovers (their 17.6 TO Ratio from last night would place them second in the league for the season) and allowed the Hornets to get out in the open court.
In half-court Kemba Walker toyed with the Timberwolves bigs in the pick-and-roll, while Nicolas Batum made some difficult looks as he knocked down three 3-pointers for the quarter.
Cody Zeller deserves much of the praise for the run as well, even if it came in a more subtle manner. The 24-year-old — who also scored eight of his 14 points in the third quarter — contributed with some nifty screens that opened up the aforementioned opportunities for Walker and Batum.
At one point, his screens directly lead to eight straight points by Charlotte. The highlight of these plays is the first one where Zeller counters Ricky Rubio ICE-ing the pick-and-roll by flipping the direction of the screen and leading Walker to an open shot:
(Shout out to Jim Petersen for commending Zeller on his play last night. Petersen’s insightful color commentary makes any Minnesota broadcast among the very best in the league.)
The Hoosier big man is currently sixth in the league in screen assists at 4.5 per game and is the only player in the top 10 to average as few minutes (22.7) as he does.
A throwback to last season’s “Looking back at Steve Clifford disrupting out-of-bounds plays” and a tribute to a fine game of the microphones picking up two sideline generals, Steve Clifford and Tom Thibodeau, in action.
Clifford doesn’t just instruct his players on this particular out-of-bounds play. They respond to him as if he was controlling them in a video game.
As always, some great preparation on coach Clifford’s part to recognize the Timberwolves play that was coming.
Lastly, even though Marvin Williams is at a respectable 34.8 percent from the 3-point range for the season, it seems like he’s been shooting worse. The reason for that might be the amount of open looks he hasn’t converted into makes.
Last night Williams missed all three “wide open” (closest defender 6+ feet away) 3-point attempts and both of his “open” (4-6 feet) attempts, per NBA.com data. He’s only made 32.3 percent of his open attempts from three -- the most frequent type of 3-pointer he has taken.
Obviously, the percentage on 3-pointers is prone to fluctuation and thus the fact that Williams has had the same open looks is still more important than his percentage. Hopefully, he finds his touch as the season goes along.