NEW YORK – After playing from so far ahead in consecutive victories over Indiana and the Los Angeles Lakers, the Timberwolves took one step forward and two steps back all night during Wednesday’s 98-97 loss to Brooklyn.
They lost for the just second time in nine games even though they outscored the Nets 24-10 in free throws but were outscored by the Nets 42-3 on three-point shots.
You do the math.
A team so energetic it led the Pacers 17-0 to start Sunday’s game and the Lakers 16-0 to start Monday’s game, the Wolves had little fire to begin Wednesday’s start of a two-game trip that takes them to Boston on Friday.
“I don’t know, it wasn’t there obviously,” Wolves star Jimmy Butler said when asked where all that early-game energy went. “We didn’t play that much good basketball.”
They needed an energy infusion, namely from starting point guard Tyus Jones, to keep pace with the Nets as they went 14-for-30 on threes (46.7 percent) while the Wolves made only one of 11 (9.1 percent).
“We didn’t shoot the ball well,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I thought we were low energy the whole night. We didn’t finish our defense well so we didn’t challenge their threes, and I also thought we played a low-energy game offensively. You can’t play that way.”
Jones energized his team with the first slam dunk of his career — an emphatic third-quarter one — that brought the Wolves back from a 12-point deficit earlier in the quarter.
“Without Tyus’ dunk, I don’t think we’re in this game,” Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns said after his 16-point, 10-rebound double-double. “We just weren’t playing with the same urgency we usually have, the urgency that made us so great the last two wins.”
Jones did so again by taking a Quincy Acy away-from-the-ball foul right in the smacker with 40.4 seconds left and his team trailing 96-94.
Acy’s foul gave the Wolves a free throw and the ball. Butler made the free throw, then took the ensuing possession and created a play that led to two more free throws and a 97-96 lead with 33 seconds remaining.
But Nets starting point guard Spencer Dinwiddie drove for a 12-foot fadeaway shot over Taj Gibson with 9.7 seconds left that stood as the winner.
“We’re in position to win and you’ve got to get a stop to win and we didn’t do it,” Thibodeau said. “We needed on stop. We didn’t get it.”
Dinwiddie’s shot stood when the Wolves, after a timeout, cleared out the floor for Butler as the final seconds ticked away, and his 22-foot pullup shot missed just before the buzzer.
“Get a rhythm, rise up and shoot it like I always shoot it,” Butler said, describing the final play. “Just didn’t make it. I shoot that shot a lot of times. When it leaves my hand, I always think it’s going in and it didn’t just didn’t.”
Butler made 16 of 18 free throws Wednesday, six more than all the Nets combined. He never got there for two more to end the game. He finished 7-for-17 from the field.
“There’s three options on the play,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He got it. He’s got open floor, get to the spot, rise up and shoot and that’s what he saw. I thought he got a good look at it, and he didn’t make it. … Look, the guy got 18 free throws. When he’s going to the basket, I’ve seen him make that pull-up a million times. I trust him in those situations. He’s a big shot-maker.
“You got to trust he’ll make the right decision. That’s what he saw. I was good with the shot.”