DALLAS – Derrick Rose wasn’t in much of a hurry after Saturday’s game.
With a group of media waiting around his locker, Rose calmly placed all of his things in his large handbag and his backpack. Rookie Josh Okogie returned some shower gel he borrowed from Rose.
“Thanks, man. I appreciate you,” Okogie said.
Then Rose slung his backpack over his shoulders and expressed to the media how he wasn’t feeling very appreciative of himself after Saturday’s 140-136 loss to Mavericks.
“It seemed like everybody I was sticking tonight hit a shot, a tough shot on me,” Rose said. “I got to do a better job with contesting shots.”
In particular, Rose was ticked at himself for allowing Dennis Smith Jr. to hit the winning three-point play for the Mavericks with 6.1 seconds left. You could’ve argued Smith pushed Rose off and committed an offensive foul to create the separation. Rose wasn’t making that excuse.
“When I cut a guy off, I have to find the energy or find some way to contest the shot the way I want to,” Rose said. “But it’s going to come. I’ll get my legs under me a little more and my confidence just coming from my teammates.”
Rose might have been a little hard on himself considering the Wolves may not have been in position to win Saturday’s game without him. Rose scored 28 points, the most he’s had in a Wolves uniform, on 11-for-21 shooting, as the Wolves nearly won their first foray of the season without Jimmy Butler, who stayed behind in Minnesota for “precautionary rest,” according to the team.
At some point, whether it’s tomorrow, next month or not until the February trade deadline, the Wolves are going to have to play without Butler.
That’s the decree from Wolves and Star Tribune owner Glen Taylor after Butler made his request for the Wolves to deal him almost a month ago.
Against the Mavericks, the Wolves got a glimpse of how they look without Butler.
Offensively the Wolves didn’t skip a beat with Okogie getting his first NBA start and Rose turning back the clock. Karl-Anthony Towns poured in a game-high 31, and the Wolves even came within a point of setting a five-year old mark for most points in a quarter with their 46 in the first.
But defensively the Wolves couldn’t keep the shorthanded Mavericks, playing without the recovering Dirk Nowitzki and Harrison Barnes, from scoring in bunches right along with them. The Mavericks hung a 40-spot on the scoreboard as well — 43 in the fourth quarter.
Rookie Luka Doncic looked like the Mavericks’ next franchise player with 26 points while DeAndre Jordan had 22 points and 10 rebounds.
When asked how concerned he was with the team’s defense, coach Tom Thibodeau said, “A lot.” Also giving Thibodeau wrinkles on his forehead was the Wolves’ rebounding. The Mavericks shot 50 three-pointers to 48 twos, which meant there were a lot of long rebounds and the Mavericks corralled 15 of them for 24 second-chance points, 18 of those in the second half.
“We have to as bigs get to rebounds,” Towns said. “Get good box-outs and have to, as a team, gang rebound and get the ball. We got a lead by getting those rebounds, getting in transition and utilizing our athleticism and our speed and our talent. We have to be able to utilize that better.”
Towns was unable to hit Jeff Teague for an open three late in the game before the Mavericks sent Towns to the line where he made both free throws with 3 seconds left. The Wolves never mounted a serious challenge after Smith’s shot on Rose. Without Butler the Wolves came close to a victory. But soon they’ll have to figure out a way to actually win these games.