Tough 3rd quarter in Charlotte snaps Timberwolves’ 5-game winning streak
Minnesota was outscored 39-21 in the 3rd quarter
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A five-game winning streak was snapped via one extremely poor quarter Friday in Charlotte.
Minnesota won three frames, but fell apart entirely in the third quarter — a problematic 12-minute segment for the team for much of this early season — in a 110-106 loss to the Hornets.
The Timberwolves led Charlotte — a struggling team playing without LaMelo Ball — by 12 through one half, and appeared to be well on their way to a sixth-straight victory heading into Sunday’s home bout with Golden State.
But the Wolves were outscored 39-21 in the third quarter, a frame in which Minnesota went 8 for 22 from the field — low-lighted by an 0 for 8 shooting performance from Karl-Anthony Towns — while turning the ball over six times. The ball got sticky, with few passes and tons of isolation basketball. That’s the type of offense Minnesota had largely avoided in recent weeks after it led the team to a 5-8 start to the season. But it re-appeared at an inopportune time.
“We haven’t done that for a long time,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “That was kind of our habit at the beginning of the season, and tonight, we just didn’t have it in the third quarter for whatever reason.”
On the other end, Charlotte (6-14) got whatever it wanted offensively. Everything the Hornets did was in rhythm and came with ease. The Hornets shot 57% in the third, while also grabbing four offensive rebounds as they sliced Minnesota defensively via dribble penetration. Finch said that was a product of getting beat with strong-hand drives and not working to make the extra step to cut off drives.
If Charlotte didn’t score at the rim, the Hornets were drawing fouls. It was a concerning stretch, particularly against a team that came into the night with the NBA’s lowest offensive rating.
Yes, Minnesota missed shots all evening, starting with Towns. The Wolves were a dreadful 9 for 41 from deep. Of those 41 looks, Finch guessed about 35 of them were good looks. Certain players put up big numbers — Anthony Edwards led the way with 25 points, D’Angelo Russell paired an efficient 20 points with 10 assists, and Rudy Gobert tallied 17 points and 17 rebounds — but the offense certainly did not hum.
But Friday was a game the Timberwolves certainly could’ve won on the other end.
“It’s disappointing to lose this game in this fashion,” Finch said. “This is a game that you have to win with your defense, and we had every chance to try to do that except for the third quarter.”
The third was one obvious point where Finch felt the game was lost. Another came in the second quarter, when the coach thought Minnesota (10-9) had every opportunity to blow the game open, but failed to do so offensively. That’s why the coach didn’t feel great heading into the locker room. His players certainly didn’t look great coming out of it.
Off the heels of the rough third frame, Minnesota allowed Charlotte to go on a 6-0 run to open the fourth to expand the lead to 14 points. Minnesota scratched back into contention by holding the Hornets to 6 for 19 shooting in the final frame, but many of those stops were erased by Charlotte tallying eight offensive rebounds over the final 12 minutes.
“When we finally started to sit down and guard, then we struggled to rebound defensively and get 50-50 balls,” Finch said. “We made them miss some big shots, multiple times in a possession, and they got them all back, for the most part, and that was a big backbreaker.”
Finch said Taurean Prince could miss one to two weeks with a right shoulder sublaxation, while Jordan McLaughlin is more day to day with a left calf strain. Gobert played after suffering an ankle sprain in the first quarter of Minnesota’s win Wednesday in Indiana. Gobert said the injury made some movement difficult, but noted it was good enough to play. He expects the ankle to get better and better each day.
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