PHOENIX – Three nights after they won in Oklahoma City by a closing-seconds three-pointer, the Timberwolves lost by one Monday night in Phoenix, falling 107-104 on Mirza Teletovic’s fallaway, arcing three with 1.2 seconds remaining.
On Friday, Wolves guard Ricky Rubio’s three-pointer beat the Thunder with two-tenths of a second left.
On Monday, the three-point happy Suns couldn’t make one of them to start the game and then they could hardly miss, making five consecutively and six of seven to end the third quarter and start the fourth. They began the evening by making just three of their first 20.
Teletovic’s final three — his fifth made Monday — arced toward the rafters and found nothing but net, undoing a Wolves team that had positioned itself to win despite getting outscored 33-12 on three-pointers and outrebounded 57-36.
“That’s the NBA,” Wolves interim head coach Sam Mitchell said, referring the disparate outcomes from one game to the next. “Guys make shots. Running away from the basket, he hit a tough shot. You have to give it to him. I thought our defense was good. The disappointing thing about it is you’re going to lose games and teams are going to beat you and make shots but …”
Then he went on to say he and his team needs more toughness, defense and the little things from reserve role players who he suggested Monday are too concerned with scoring. The Suns’ bench outscored the Wolves’ reserves 37-12, but also outrebounded them 16-7.
Trailing by five points early and leading by 10 points at halftime, the Wolves led 101-100 after Rubio made two free throws with 12.9 seconds left.
With a foul to give, Mitchell said he informed the officials they intended to foul before the Suns could launch a shot. Wolves guard Zach LaVine did so, wrapping up Suns sharpshooting guard Devin Booker 12 feet from the basket.
But Booker muscled up a shot, the officials ruled that LaVine had fouled him while shooting and not before it. Booker’s subsequent three-point play put Phoenix ahead 104-102 with 9.2 seconds left.
LaVine said he believes he fouled Booker not once, but twice before he could get a shot off, but questioned himself for not pushing Booker farther away from the basket before he caught a pass.
“I fouled him one time, I fouled him again before he put the ball down,” said LaVine, who led the Wolves with 28 points despite first-half foul trouble. “I guess the ref didn’t think that. I should have pushed him out farther. Don’t foul him when he’s facing the basket. ”
The Wolves still had their chance: Andrew Wiggins tied the score at 104 on a driving layup with 4.9 seconds left and the Suns took a 20-second timeout to set up Teletovic's winning shot. Shabazz Muhammad's desperation three at the final buzzer missed.
“It is how I drew it up,” Suns interim head coach Earl Watson said. “But Telly had to put in the dribble.”
Teletovic dribbled once, then launched his fadeaway.
“I know him from Europe, I know what he can do,” Rubio said. “It was a tough shot, nothing to say about him. It’s the way he likes to shoot the ball, fading away from three, with a lot of arc. He made it.”