In the Minnesota Timberwolves‘ latest loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, they led going into the fourth quarter. The Wolves had not previously lost a game when leading in the fourth quarter, but the Thunder went on a huge run and outscored the Wolves 35-20 in the final 12 minutes and won the game by 10, never relinquishing the lead once they’d taken over.
Kevin Durant took over the game and notched a triple-double, and the Wolves’ stars, Kevin Love and Kevin Martin, simply could not match that.
The Timberwolves are not a comeback team. In fact, they have not come back from a deficit of six or more this season. As a team that’s lost the vast majority of their games by less than 10 points, the ability to come back from even a small disadvantage would likely lead to a much better record.
In clutch situations, which the NBA’s stat database defines as having five minutes or fewer remaining in a game where teams are separated by five or fewer points, the Wolves have won four games and lost six. Of those four wins, the Wolves were up in three of them. In those situations, Love is shooting 26.3 percent from the field.
In those same situations, Martin is actually shooting extremely well — 52.6 percent from the field and 60 percent from 3-point range. Martin gets worse though, as time remaining decreases and when the Wolves are down. Both Martin and Love have missed all of their attempts when the Wolves were trailing by three or fewer with 10 seconds or less remaining.
Essentially, of the Wolves’ two main scoring options, one of them has been pretty bad in clutch situations and the other has been pretty good, but neither have shown that they’re able to really take over in the final minutes. To win these close games and make comebacks, even minor ones, the Wolves’ must either get solid contributions from multiple key players or have one guy completely take over the game.
The Timberwolves should improve in clutch and comeback situations as the season progresses. Their returning core of Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic hasn’t really logged heavy minutes together, and adding Martin into the mix makes things even less familiar. As the team grows together and becomes more comfortable, they should develop into a team that wins games in the fourth quarter, not loses them.