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Wolves score worse in play-offs. So why is the offense better?

In the regular season, the Timberwolves had the No. 1 defense in the league. So far in the playoffs, it’s the other side of the ball that is outsmarting their opponents.

According to NBA.com, the Wolves have the most efficient offense in the league this postseason with 123.2 points per 100 possessions.

During the regular season, the Wolves ranked 17th in offensive rating with 114.6.

What’s behind this offensive outburst?

The Wolves are actually shooting worse than during the regular season; their effective field goal percentage has dropped from .559 to .548.

Instead, the Wolves have shown significant improvement on the offensive glass. They are the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the playoffs at .392, outscoring the Knicks by .304. That means the Wolves got almost 40% of all available offensive rebounds in the first round against Phoenix. That’s more than their regular season mark of 27.5%.

One reason for that improvement is the increased production of forward Jaden McDaniels. McDaniels averaged 0.8 offensive rebounds during the regular season. That was up to three per game against Phoenix as the Wolves emphasized McDaniels to crash the offensive glass. They even had him do football drills before the series, coach Chris Finch said after McDaniels scored 25 points in a 105-93 win in Game 2.

“We have to win, we have to do everything we can to win,” McDaniels said. “(Finch) pointed it out to me all regular season about offensive rebounds.”

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The Wolves were able to take advantage of a Suns team that was undersized against them and ranked 20th in defensive rebounding during the regular season. The Nuggets ranked 15th in that metric and appear to have a bit more volume thanks to 6-11 center Nikola Jokic and 6-8 forward Aaron Gordon. Michael Porter Jr. as a small forward also checks in at 6-10.

But the Wolves have talked about using their size to let teams adapt to them, so expect them to remain aggressive in attacking the offensive glass, even as a way to soften opponents in transition.

Game 1 is Saturday

With the Nuggets winning their first-round series against the Lakers in five games, Game 1 of the second round will take place Saturday night in Denver and air on TNT.

What time the game starts depends on how the other playoff series goes. If Saturday’s Wolves-Nuggets game is the only playoff game, it will start at 6 p.m. If there are other games on Saturday – a Philadelphia-New York Game 7, an Indiana-Milwaukee Game 7 or both – the game will start at 8:30 a.m.

Game 2 is Monday night in Denver, then the teams have a three-day break before Game 3 on Friday at Target Center. Game 4 is Sunday. No times have been announced for other games in the series.

Wolves in his mind

Nuggets coach Michael Malone quickly turned his attention to the second round after Monday’s 108-106 win in Game 5, which was secured when Jamal Murray hit a jumper with 3.6 seconds left. Murray scored 32 points and played more than 40 minutes despite being listed as doubtful due to a calf injury.

“Now we can try to get ready for Saturday against a beast in Minnesota,” Malone said in his post-game press conference. “…Minnesota was the No. 1 team in the West for most of the year. It’s going to be a hard-fought series and I’m sure they’ll want to get revenge for last season.”