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Coach: Wolves need work on 3-pointers the most

MINNEAPOLIS--Tom Thibodeau was upfront about the area in which Minnesota's offense needed the most work when training camp started in September. It was pretty obvious. "Three-point shooting," the new Timberwolves coach said. "There's too much of ...

MINNEAPOLIS-Tom Thibodeau was upfront about the area in which Minnesota's offense needed the most work when training camp started in September.

It was pretty obvious.

"Three-point shooting," the new Timberwolves coach said. "There's too much of a gap right now."

The gap he was referring to was the difference between the number of threes Minnesota made last season (5.5 per game) and the number its opponents made (nine).

"So that's a 10.5-point deficit before you start," Thibodeau said. "So obviously we have to defend that better and we have to get more ourselves. But they have to be the right ones."

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Those "right ones" mean open looks developed from rotating the ball and kick-outs from drives and post-ups. Those types of looks should be plentiful for a team full of playmakers.

"We have such good people that can get in the lane and draw two (defenders) and bring double-teams," Wolves guard Zach LaVine said. "There's always going to be that open person."

Minnesota has taken advantage of that early in the preseason. Through five games, the Timberwolves are averaging 22 three-point attempts, up from 16 during the 2015-16 regular season. They're hitting on 36 percent of their attempts, as opposed to the 34 percent they shot last season. Guys like Shabazz Muhammad and Karl-Anthony Towns have talked about plans to take more perimeter jump shots this season, and versatile big man Nemanja Bjelica has been more active from deep, as well.

"We're getting a lot of good threes up," LaVine said. "They're not forced. They're a lot of wide-open shots, and we're making them, too, so that's the main thing. We're getting them up. We're just improving the more we shoot them the better we'll be at it."

Minnesota made 622 fewer three-pointers than Golden State last season, so the need to hit more is there. But, as Thibodeau said, the Timberwolves also have to do a better job defending the arc. Minnesota is surrendering eight made three-pointers per game this preseason, which is slightly better than the nine it allowed last season.

"I think the biggest thing for us is that we're keeping opponents and their three-point attempts low," Towns said.

Any improvement is a welcome one for a fan base that has clamored for more three-point shots and had its eyes burned by a bevy of long two-point jump shots in recent years. While Thibodeau is perceived as an old-school coach in many ways, he has touched on the importance of getting high-efficiency shots such as free-throws, layups and three-pointers from the corner - the highest-percentage shot that exists beyond the arc.

The fresh philosophy is paying early dividends. While Minnesota has made one fewer three-pointer (41) than its opponents this preseason, the Wolves have made more three-pointers than their opposition in three of their five games. That might not sound like a lot, but it's a drastic improvement from last season, when the Timberwolves had the three-point edge over their opponent just 11 times in 82 games.

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"That's the biggest thing," Towns said. "We've got to make sure that we're hitting just as many, or even more, threes than the opponent. We're doing that this preseason; that's why we've been getting more wins."

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