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Rockets 111, Wolves 109: Completely Perplexing

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Against all odds, the Wolves found a way to lose again.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — After an encouraging comeback win in Chicago on Tuesday, the Wolves looked poised to win back-to-back games for the first time this season.

With 2:59 remaining, Andrew Wiggins hit an 18-footer to take a 13-point lead, 91-78, and it looked as if the team was ready to turn a new leaf after their disappointing start.

Everything went seriously wrong after that.

The Wolves scored only four points during those final three minutes while the Rockets shot 7-8 from the field. Both Wiggins and Zach LaVine missed two attempts at the rim to extend the lead to five with 15 seconds left. LaVine missed his driving layup and Wiggins was blocked by James Harden on his put-back attempt.

Trevor Ariza hit an open three on a defensive breakdown (why would Towns ever slide over to Harden, who was driving to the rack when the Rockets needed a triple) and the game was suddenly tied at 95 with 6.5 seconds remaining. Wiggins and Towns struggled to advance the ball, nearly turning it over in fact, which left Wiggins with a half-court attempt that fell short at the buzzer.

The only people looking forward to overtime in the building were the Houston Rockets. Harden flexed his muscles and accounted for 13 points in the final frame—10 of his own and an assist on a three. He did it all with ease. The Beard ran by defenders over and over until they finally decided it was wise to trap him.

The finish was completely perplexing as the Wolves put in excellent effort all night to prevent him from getting the ball. I’m not sure if Tom Thibodeau didn’t stress it enough again, if the players were too tired to keep up, or if everybody was too deflated to keep going. Gorgui Dieng was the lone starter to not play 41+ minutes in the game.

The Wolves made it close at the end but they looked entirely overmatched throughout overtime, and they lost the game 111-109 after LaVine stepped out of bounds on the final possession. It really should have never been that close to begin with. Houston looked lifeless for most of the night coming off the back-to-back and were begging to get beat for most of the night. They started off pitifully—making only 7-29 from three to start, but shot 10-22 from deep after that. The Wolves left them too much room to catch fire and that’s exactly what happened.

“We had a compilation of mistakes,” Tom Thibodeau said regarding the team’s defense during that final stretch in regulation. “I believe we were up nine with fifty-nine seconds. But a team that can shoot threes the way they can make up ground in a hurry and they did.”

Those mistakes spoiled another monster game from Towns, who had 41 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists. He also had six turnovers—two in the final minute and a half—and struggled with decision making when the Rockets brought the double on him in crunch time. On the other hand, he needed more help from his supporting cast and Wiggins finished 5-17 from the field in an overall rough performance; he forced up tough, contested shots throughout the night.

This was a monumental collapse. The team has proven yet again it still doesn’t know how to close out games.

“I mean, I’d lie if I said I didn’t think we were going to win. I think we’re going to win when we step into the building. Especially when you’re up by 12 with three minutes left. You feel like you have a great chance. I think we were up by 10 with a minute left. I really felt good about our chances. All we really had to do was control the ball and we had it,” Towns said after the game.

He’s exactly right and hopefully they can use this game as a blueprint of exactly what not to do in the future, but it also gets tiresome talking about the same things over and over again. Eventually they have to figure it out. They had careless passes, quick possessions, and terrible defense after 45 minutes of strong basketball. All they needed to do was execute down the stretch and we would be talking about a lot of different things.

The turning point seemed to be on the awkward hand-off attempt from KAT to Rubio that went straight out of bounds late in the game. Ariza, who struggled from deep all night, hit a three on the ensuing play which cut the deficit to four. That turnover happened with 13 seconds left on the shot clock and 45 seconds left in the game. The Wolves choked tonight, and it’s clearly frustrating for everyone involved.

Towns admission about needing to control the ball is encouraging in that you hope to never see this again, but fans need to see progress and it’s hard to see the state of the franchise improving after another gut punching defeat that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

The team is at home again on Monday where they will look to wash this game out of their mouths against the Phoenix Suns.

NOTES

  • Zach LaVine had 24 points shooting 9-18 from the field. He was 3-7 from deep and has scored 20+ in five of the last six games. His eight turnovers really hurt the team.
  • The Wolves shouldn’t have lost.
  • The teams combined to shoot 72 threes, which is a new franchise record. 51 came from Houston, also a record for a Minnesota opponent. This came after the Rockets set an NBA record with 24 three pointers made in their last game.
  • The Wolves shouldn’t have lost.
  • Minnesota had 22 turnovers which is a season-high. At times it just felt like they were handing the ball back to the Rockets and asking them to win.
  • The Wolves shouldn’t have lost.