DALLAS – Timberwolves rookie Josh Okogie wasn’t nervous when coach Tom Thibodeau told him he would be starting in the place of the resting Jimmy Butler.
Okogie said his time playing with the first unit during the preseason was enough preparation for his NBA regular-season debut on Saturday in the Mavericks’ 140-136 victory over the Wolves.
Okogie didn’t have a small role either after not getting a minute in the first two games of the season. He ended up playing over 28 minutes and it likely would have been more had he not picked up his fifth foul in the third quarter.
“I knew where to pick my spots and what my role is when I’m on the court with them,” Okogie said. “I came in the game ready to make an impact. I knew I just had to come to the game, rebound, do the dirty stuff, let the others shine.”
Okogie picked up six points on 2 of 5 shooting while grabbing five rebounds.
Coach Tom Thibodeau said Okogie was "good" on Saturday. Karl-Anthony Towns said Okogie fit in “amazing."
“I thought he gave us great energy,” Towns said. “His defensive presence was there. He’s playing tremendously hard and that’s what you need. You need someone running around like a chicken with no head.”
Instead of complaining about his foul calls, multiple times Okogie approached the referees and seemed to have a constructive dialogue with them about what he did wrong, ending one conversation with an official with a head nod and a thumbs up. Okogie said that’s all part of the learning process of being an NBA rookie.
“I got to adjust to the refs and adjust to how they call things,” Okogie said. “Adjust my play and my defense according to how they call and I’ll be all right. But the biggest thing is I was aggressive, that’s all I can ask for."
It was Towns who got the ball when the Wolves were down three following Dennis Smith Jr.’s 3-point play with 6.1 seconds remaining. Towns ended up not getting a shot off and instead the Mavericks fouled him, sending him to the free-throw line for two shots.
Towns said he was trying to get off a shot but, “I just didn’t have a good look at the rim with the space and where I was on the court,” he said.
Towns then said he was trying to get the ball to an open Jeff Teague but couldn’t before he got fouled.
He made both and following two made free throws from Smith, the Wolves turned it over on the ensuing inbound pass and never had a chance to tie.
“The game went the way the game went and we have to bounce back Monday.”
• With Okogie and Andrew Wiggins in foul trouble, Thibodeau turned to C.J. Williams for Williams’ first action of the season. Williams finished 0-for-1 with two turnovers and was a minus-9 in nearly eight minutes.
• The Wolves had their hands full with the Mavericks’ size. DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Powell combined to go 14 for 17 and 41 points, with Jordan getting 22 and Powell getting 19 in nearly 17 minutes off the bench.