01/28 16:40 CST Reeling Timberwolves try to pivot away from record collapse
Reeling Timberwolves try to pivot away from record collapse
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) --- Minnesota Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders was eager to
work after a restless night, a lack of sleep that was not attributable to the
nocturnal habits of his 7-month-old son.
His team was the cause after a late-game collapse so stunning it's all but
destined to serve as the defining moment of the season no matter what else
comes down the stretch.
"We put ourselves in the history books for the wrong reason," said star center
Karl-Anthony Towns, who has not been on the floor for a victory since Nov. 27.
The Timberwolves lost a 17-point lead on Sacramento on Monday with just 2:49
left in regulation, proceeding to lose 133-129 to the Kings in overtime.
According to ESPN research, this was the first time in 8,379 games --- since
the tracking of NBA play-by-play data began with the 1996-97 season --- that a
team trailing by 17 or more points in the final three minutes had rallied to
"Trust me, I understand, especially as a Minnesota fan, a game like last night
hurts. It does. It hurts all of us," said Saunders, who is 32-57 since taking
over midway through last season. "But we mean it when we say we're going to
focus on today. We use last night as a stepping stone to get better."
The Timberwolves had a double-digit lead for 36:18 of game time that lasted
until 1:05 remained in the fourth quarter. They led 108-86 with 6:20 to go in
the fourth quarter, 115-98 when Andrew Wiggins hit a 3-pointer with 2:49
remaining in regulation and still 117-103 with 1:46 left.
The Wolves were up 119-113 with 34.9 seconds on the clock when Shabazz Napier
went to the foul line and missed both tries. Buddy Hield's 3-pointer and
De'Aaron Fox's intentionally missed second free throw he turned into an
uncontested layup with 3.6 seconds remaining for the Kings forged a tie that
was unfathomable just a few possessions earlier.
"As low as you can get," Napier said. "This is it."
Saunders did his best to appear buoyant Tuesday when he addressed reporters
before practice, promising "a healthy film session" to make sure the players
fully digested all their late-game sins. With four days before playing again on
the road against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Wolves will have plenty of time
to process what went wrong.
Towns was still stinging, speaking in a hushed tone with a few scowls and
winces preceding clipped answers to questions in a brief media session.
"We've just all got to be committed to this and then go from there," said
Towns, who missed 15 games with a knee injury from mid-December to mid-January.
Minnesota's losing streak has reached 10 straight games.
The cruelest part of the outcome for the Wolves on Monday was the way the first
45 minutes went. They made a franchise-record 23 shots from 3-point range in 46
attempts, with Wiggins contributing a career-best 7-for-11 performance on his
way to 36 points.
Under the guidance of new president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas,
with Saunders all in from the sideline, the Wolves have embarked on a sharp
shift in style this season to play a faster-paced offense that features the
do-it-all Towns and a heavy dose of long-distance shooting.
Growing pains have been pronounced, and the work-in-progress defense is another
story of its own.
"The system works. That's really it. It works," Towns said. "We've just got to
Energy doesn't have to be hamstrung by strategic hiccups, however, and the
hustle plays that are necessary to any team's success have been largely missing
lately for the Wolves.
"When you do go on losing streaks, you've got to pull yourself out of the
mindset of, ?Oh, here we go,'" Saunders said. "It's got to be moving on to the
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