MINNEAPOLIS -- Andrew Wiggins lost the ball with the game on the line at the end of overtime Sunday, Nov. 10. Josh Okogie collected it in the corner and threw up a prayer that clanked off the iron as Minnesota fell 100-98 to Denver.
“They ended up switching (their defense) — they did a nice job of it,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said. “And then we just didn’t get a good look.”
What a fitting conclusion to a game in which the Timberwolves couldn’t make a thing from beyond the arc. The Wolves went 6 for 45 — 13.3 percent — from 3-point range in defeat.
“Definitely felt there was a lid (on the rim) in the game,” Robert Covington said. “That’s part of what happened, what allowed us not to come out with this win.”
The problem is that’s been a recurring theme for Minnesota. The Wolves’ revamped offensive philosophy has them taking a lot of 3-pointers — they’re averaging 41 a game, the third-highest total in the NBA — but making just 29.5 percent of them, good for third-worst in the league.
It’s one thing to take a lot of 3-pointers, but another to actually make them.
“We’ve got to fix what we need to fix on the offensive end,” Karl-Anthony Towns said. “All of us need to make some shots if we want to win against a team like that.”
They almost did it without making anything. Minnesota trailed 90-74 with 6 minutes, 43 seconds to play in regulation. The Wolves appeared to be dead in the water. But they rallied on the strength of a suffocating defensive performance. Minnesota closed regulation on a 16-0 run to force overtime.
“We just had to lock in. That was our last push,” Covington said. “If that lead would’ve grew, Ryan would’ve subbed us out and got ready for tomorrow. But as we chipped away each and every possession we cut it down and then we got back into the game, you just gotta roll with it. We had to tell ourselves we had to play harder, we had to play faster, and we had to get out and run. They weren’t able to keep up with us like that.”
That rally featured 15 straight stops on the defensive end.
“We were in desperation,” Josh Okogie said. “Desperate times call for desperate measures. We were able to execute the game plan defensively and we were able to hold them scoreless.”
But, in the end, it was all for naught. Because in the extra session, Nuggets’ all-star Nikola Jokic, who’d struggled for much of the day, hit a tough fadeaway jump shot over Towns with 2.4 seconds left to give Denver (7-2) the victory.
“We had a chance. We didn’t capitalize,” Towns said. “We showed our fight. We showed our competitive spirit. But that’s probably it.”
Until Minnesota gets its shots to start falling, effort on its own won’t be enough. Covington took just two shots all game. He noted the ball movement wasn’t where it needed to be in the first half, but said Minnesota (5-4) eventually got the shots it wanted it wanted as the game progressed. The Wolves had a lot of open looks, but nothing fell. Towns and Wiggins each scored 25 points, but Towns went just 3 for 14 from deep, while Wiggins was 1 for 6.
“When games like this happen, we just have to keep shooting and stick with our philosophies,” Okogie said. “And next game it’s going to come through.”
Jeff Teague (illness) and Shabazz Napier (hamstring) each missed their third consecutive games Sundays. Saunders said Teague will fly to Detroit and could potentially play Monday against the Pistons.
Teague is hopeful that’s the case, but isn’t sure. He said he has stitches at the moment, so there are things he can’t do yet until they heal.