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Thunder 139, Wolves 127: Snatching Defeat From The Jaws of Victory

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Refs, missed free throws see Minnesota lose the unloseable.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

If that wasn’t the weirdest, stupidest, most frustrating end to a game you’ve ever seen then you’ve watched a lot more basketball than me.

After rallying back from a 10-point deficit with a tick under 6 minutes remaining, the Wolves were up with one second left. The ball was in their hands at the free throw line.

Game over, right?

Nope. Against all odds, they lost.

The referees called a delay of game on Jordan Bell for, of all things, having his jersey untucked as he entered the game. That actually happened. A ridiculous technical with one second left. After Karl-Anthony Towns hit the second free throw to go back up two points (maybe chuck it straight at the front rim next time?), Steven Adams launched a full-court pass to Dennis Schroder who promptly tied the game and sent it to overtime on the buzzer. The entire sequence was totally absurd and extremely frustrating to watch unfold.

In overtime, the air was clearly out of the Wolves’ tires. They made just two field goals and ended up losing by 12 points in an absolute heartbreaker. While the unfathomable call was a key reason for the loss, frequent bad shooting at the charity stripe by Bell and Towns during the dying moments of the game also shoulder blame.

Aside from the disastrous finish, this was a super fun game. Jeff Teague, despite going back to really bad Jeff Teague in overtime, had his best game of the season. He finished with 32 points (two points shy of his career-high) and 9 assists on 12-17 shooting and 4-5 from beyond the arc. For the most part, he was decisive and skilful, a rare occurrence in what has been a down year for the 31-year-old.

Karl-Anthony Towns was his usual scorching self. He had 30 points (11-16 FG, 5-9 3PT), 5 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals. He had shot just one field goal heading into the final minutes of the fourth, before taking over with a quick-fire triple and this thunderous poster that should have been the game-sealer.

Outside of that, Robert Covington (15 points, 7 rebounds) and Jordon Bell (12 points, 5 rebounds) gave them a boost, but it ultimately wasn’t enough. The Thunder, through the exploits of Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dennis Schroder and Steven Adams, had managed to will their team to a win that seemed physically impossible.

It really is easy to blame Scott Foster and his officiating crew for this one. Calling a delay of game in that situation is wildly perplexing — truly one of the worst calls I’ve ever witnessed. But the Wolves shot themselves in the foot in an almost unimaginable way in the last few seconds when the game was all theirs. Aside from a terrible finish that’s hard to make sense of, Oklahoma City shot 36-40 from the line on the night, with half of those coming in the third quarter. Minnesota couldn’t defend without fouling and it came back to bite them.

While they put up a good fight and this game wasn’t lost through a lack of effort, it’s going to be a tough one to look back on. That’s especially true when you look at the upcoming schedule with the Lakers, Suns, Jazz, Clippers, Pelicans and Nuggets over the next six outings. It could get rough for a team that has just fallen below .500 for the first time this season.

Sigh. Another heart-wrenching night in Wolves World.