‘This team has all the makings of being a special one’: Timberwolves’ superpower may be their accountability

Traditionally, the Timberwolves’ film sessions consist of maybe 12 clips all centered on a certain theme the coaching staff wants to hammer home to players.

That was not the case Saturday.

After another fourth-quarter collapse Friday in a loss to Orlando, Minnesota spent roughly an hour running through the entire quarter with a focus on how the Timberwolves can better close games.

But everyone involved said the session was less about the film than it was the conversation, in which many actively partook.

“We had a bunch of guys stand up and talk — players, coaches. And just hearing different voices, hearing different conversations,” Wolves guard Mike Conley said. “Guys were talking about film, talking about what they needed to do to get better, coaches were calling people out, telling them they needed to do this and that, and guys were receptive to it and just grown men about it. It was a really good session. We didn’t even practice, I don’t think. We just had that hour-long session and came out of it, I think, a better team.”

That’s what the immediate results suggested. Minnesota delivered one of its more complete performances of the past month in its drubbing of Houston at home Sunday. Conley was pleased with the effort the Timberwolves showed over 48 minutes not just on the defensive end, where the Wolves have been fairly consistent this season, but also on offense.

Both ends of the floor were highlighted in Saturday’s sitdown.

“Just re-establish who we were, taking any miscommunications that we have on defense and offense out and just sitting there as a family and having those tough discussions,” Karl-Anthony Towns said. “I think we did a really good job of that. Was really proud of everybody, from the coaches to the players. Everyone participated, everyone made their voice heard and everyone let each other know what they need from each other. And from everyone. And I think it showed (against Houston) with kind of the way we played. I don’t think we played our best offense, but the defense I think reminded us of who we were at the beginning of the year and how great we can be.”

Anthony Edwards said assistant coach Corliss Williamson was the “MVP” of the discussion. Williamson is in charge of the Timberwolves’ transition defense, which was unusually lackluster Friday, and certainly tightened up against the Rockets.

One of the Wolves’ best traits is that they can absorb criticism and put the necessary corrections into action in short order.

“This team has all the makings of being a special one. Not just in terms of what they’ve done so far in the season, but also who they are as people, the way that they accept coaching, the way that they bounce back when challenged or from a poor defeat,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “All that kind of stuff, it shows the character.”

From every player from the top of the roster on down. That, Conley noted, is rare.

“I’ve been in a lot of different locker rooms, and there’s a lot of different personalities out there. Guys who are not coachable, guys who don’t accept criticism, constructive criticism, whatever you want to call it. And it really messes up the chemistry,” Conley said. “We have a team of guys who, from Ant to KAT to Rudy, top down, are willing to be talked to the way Finch will talk to you and accept that and move forward. It sets the standard for everybody else. This is a really good environment to be around.”

The next step, Rudy Gobert noted, is perhaps for losses like Friday to not be prerequisites for improvements and course corrections.

“It’s finding that consistency when things go well and don’t compete with anybody but just compete with ourselves every day,” Gobert said. “I think if we keep raising the level of accountability between each other, more than anything, the players and then also the coaches, but more than anything, the players, I think that we took another step as a team, and we don’t want to be just a good team, we want to be a great team. We’ve got a goal in mind that we want to accomplish and we can’t just be OK with being happy with winning a couple of games and losing games. We got to go for excellence, and that’s not easy to do. You got to strive for it.”

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