Since Nov. 10, the day the Timberwolves agreed to trade Jimmy Butler to Philadelphia, Minnesota has been the NBA’s best defensive team.

“We’re paying more attention to the detail, understanding what we have to do, watching film,” Taj Gibson said. “You’re seeing more guys watching film, pulling in the coaches (and asking), ‘What hand does he want to use? What hand doesn’t he want to use? What do you want me to do more?’ ”

Over their past nine games, including Wednesday’s 128-89 win over San Antonio, the Wolves have ranked No. 1 in defensive rating (99.8 points allowed per 100 possessions), opposing field-goal percentage (41.8 percent), fast- break points allowed (7.9 a game) and points allowed in the paint (40.9).

They’re also second in steals per game (10.1) and, most important, 7-2 since trading their best player.

The Wolves have held three straight opponents under 100 points and eight straight under 104.

“We’re just focusing on it, honestly,” said point guard Tyus Jones. “We’re finally taking pride in it, each and every play. And not for a quarter, not for a few minutes, not for one possession; we’re staying locked in on that end of the floor, and I think we’re starting to see that it makes a difference.”

CAVALIERS: The team finalized its trade with Utah, sending Kyle Korver to the Jazz.

Cleveland got guard Alec Burks, and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021.


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