There wasn’t anger in the voice of Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders after his team’s 137-116 shellacking at the hands of the Washington Wizards.
He was more like a parent who tells an unruly child: I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.
“Tonight was not who we are; offensively, defensively,” he said. “It just wasn’t who we’ve been. I don’t want to say, ‘You’re going to have games like that.’ We can’t have games like that.”
It was a mess pretty much from the start, the Wolves’ first true clunker of the season. The Wolves couldn’t contain Bradley Beal, who scored 44 points while Moe Wagner came off the bench to score a career-high 30, more than double his output in any game this season.
Everything that could break down on defense did.
“We just couldn’t help each other at all,” guard Jeff Teague said. “We let Bradley Beal basically play one-on-one the whole game. We really didn’t help like we normally do.”
The Wolves seemed to be on an upward trajectory, so what went wrong? Why wasn’t the energy or focus there?
“I don’t have a clue,” Teague said.
Added Saunders: “It’s a long season and everything isn’t going to go perfect every night. But we can’t have games like tonight. We know that. Those guys know that in there.”
But a key member of the Wolves wasn’t there: Andrew Wiggins, who missed the game to be with family following the death of his grandmother.
At first, the Wolves were able to score just fine without him — they trailed only 76-73 at the half and were shooting 60%. But they shot 33% in the second half as Washington ran laps around them.
“Even our offense felt kind of shaky,” said Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 36 points and 10 rebounds. “It was iso-ish, wasn’t as fluid. We got away in the first half because we were just scoring so well that 76-73 didn’t seem bad. Second half came and we continued to not play the defense we wanted to play and we just couldn’t match them bucket for bucket.
“That’s why the game got out of hand.”
It’s also not a good sign considering the NBA’s leading scorer in Rockets guard James Harden comes to Target Center Saturday night.
Towns was suspended when the Wolves played at Washington on Nov. 2, but they still won by 22. Friday was still a winnable game, even if the Wolves did miss Wiggins, who has been playing some of the best basketball of his career and whose status is unclear for Saturday.
“He’s been competing defensively,” Saunders said. “Offensively, he’s helped get guys get easy shots too. He takes some pressure off Karl and there’s a spirit about him right now.”
Teague said they could have used Wiggins’ ability to get to the rim, which was evident as the Wolves struggled to score in a 19-point third quarter.
“It’s impossible,” Towns said of trying to replace Wiggins. “His scoring ability, the attention he draws and just his ability to put the pressure on the defense, which translates when we’re tired on offense — we as a team though, we can’t make no excuses.”
It was Towns’ 24th birthday, and before his postgame media session, he donned a lively blue and yellow coat, put on his jewelry and told the media to wait 30 seconds and he would discuss how bad the Wolves were. Only his language was more colorful, like his jacket.
“It was a lack of energy,” he said. “We didn’t sustain the energy that people know us for and that we know ourselves for 48 minutes.”
Never did it look as bad as Friday.