A season ago, the Timberwolves led the league with 41.3 three-point attempts per game and 14.8 makes.
The Wolves offense fit right in with the three-point-heavy trends modern NBA offenses have gone in the past decade. But this season has seen a dramatic turnaround when it comes to the Wolves' production beyond the arc.
From the beginning of the season through the end of December, the Wolves were 19th in the league in three-point attempts with 32.4 per game and 23rd in makes (11.1). Their .341 shooting percentage ranked 24th. The three-point shot was no longer a weapon for them.
That has all changed in January. The Wolves have taken and made more threes — and at a better clip — and gone 11-5 for the month after Monday's 118-111 overtime loss to Sacramento.
In January, the Wolves attempted 33.9 three-pointers per game (11th) and made 13.4 (tied for eighth). That's a percentage of 39.5, which was sixth.
"A lot more catch-and-shoot threes in the flow," coach Chris Finch said of the difference in the numbers now. "We were turning down a lot of threes at one point. We weren't generating a ton anyway, but we were turning down a lot. Now the ball is moving and guys are just committed to taking them."
That includes point guard D'Angelo Russell, who said the improved three-point numbers are a product of the Wolves figuring things out as the season progresses.
"Just chemistry. What we presented to the world earlier in the year was a team with not a lot of chemistry trying to figure it out," Russell said. "Now, we've worked on that, ironed out a few of the wrinkles and got some consistent bodies out there that have formed our identity, I would say. It's allowed us to make easy plays for each other."
Russell has been a big reason for this surge, and he is having his best season shooting threes (39%). In January, Russell is shooting 49% from three-point range. That included a 7-for-7 performance in the first half of Saturday's 117-110 victory over the Kings.
"I just try to win, step up and try to lead as much as I can," Russell said. "Some nights it might be by example, it might be vocal the next and then it might just be passing the ball one night. Just trying to figure out what the game is going to present for me and try to fall into that place."
Anthony Edwards was also shooting 40% in January, which continued his strong shooting in December (41%). That was up from 35% each in October and November. Edwards and Russell have said they have found a good rhythm playing off each other.
"He's a great point guard, man," Edwards said. "He's getting a lot better with being able to just get off of it sometimes. He lets me know when to get off of it. He reads the game, he knows the game. He helps me out a lot. Our relationship just keeps growing."
Watching the standings
The Wolves entered Monday as the No. 5 seed in the topsy-turvy Western Conference. The last time they were that high in the standings was Oct. 28, when they were 4-2.
"Two months ago ... everybody thought the world was ending," guard Austin Rivers said. "We just stayed with it. You just keep playing. I kept saying to the people, stay with us. It's a long season."
But the wrinkle about being fifth in this year's version of the Western Conference is the Wolves were still only 1 ½ games ahead of the 11th-seeded team, Oklahoma City. And after Monday's loss they fell to ninth, just behind the Pelicans, also 8 ½ games out. It's a fact of this season Rivers said wasn't lost on the Wolves
"We're [checking the standings] every day," Rivers said. "We're coming in and saying, 'If we win tonight, we're in the four spot.' We're taking it seriously. We're trying to get as high as we can."