CLEVELAND – In the afterglow of the Timberwolves’ 102-95 victory over the Cavaliers, Robert Covington was answering a question about how he pushed his dreary 1-for-18 shooting line Saturday out of his brain to make room for Monday’s bravura 8-for-12 performance.
“I came in, different approach, I watched what I was doing and then I talked to my shooting coach right before the game,” Covington said.
Karl-Anthony Towns was nearby and at the mention of “shooting coach,” Towns shot Covington a look of amused befuddlement as if to say, “You really have a shooting coach?”
“That’s what happens when you’re a shooter,” Covington said to Towns with a laugh. “You got to get you a shooting coach and take your 30-something percent to 40-something percent.”
“I’m self-taught,” Towns replied.
Covington fired back: “I am, too, but you’re still going to learn things.”
The Wolves certainly have learned a lot about what Covington can bring to the table in the short time he has been here since coming from Philadelphia in the Jimmy Butler trade. All of what Covington does well was on display in Monday’s victory, like his shooting, which included hitting four of seven three-pointers for a game-high 24 points.
But perhaps more important was his defense, which helped the Wolves secure a victory on a night that Derrick Rose said they were tired after playing three games in four days, two of them on the road.
Towns added 21 points, including some key baskets in the final minutes while Andrew Wiggins went 4-for-11 for 11 points with three assists, two steals and two blocks after his own woeful 0-for-12 outing Saturday.
Covington added two steals and drew a key offensive foul on Cavaliers rookie Collin Sexton with 93 seconds remaining to seal the victory with the Wolves up seven.
“He made some good defensive plays in the fourth quarter that were huge that impacted the game,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.
The Wolves were able to dig deep and gut out a win against a depleted Cleveland team that was without multiple starters, including former Wolves All-Star Kevin Love.
Covington and Towns came up with the needed offense while Covington provided the necessary defense.
One of Covington’s best attributes as a defender has been his ability to swipe, grab or reach at the ball as his man tries to make a move on him. It’s something Covington said he became deft at by watching film of his opponents.
“He knows how to trace the ball and when you expose the ball you never quit on the play,” Thibodeau said. “Even if he’s slightly beat, he’ll continue to pursuit and make something happen at the end.”
Added Rose: “If you’re driving near him, he’s going to get the ball somehow, some way. He’s taking the ball right out of guys’ hands.”
In that way, Rose said Covington reminded him of Ronnie Brewer, Rose’s former teammate with the Bulls.
“He made his living off playing defense like that, too,” Rose said.
“But I think we all know Rob can shoot a lot better than Ronnie. No disrespect to Ronnie. I know he’s watching somewhere.”
Covington was certainly a better shooter Monday than he was Saturday.
He said once the clock hit zero in Saturday’s victory against Chicago, he tried his best to forget about it while still trying to learn from it.
“The last win was satisfying, but I just didn’t make shots,” Covington said.
He made shots on Monday. If he didn’t, the Wolves might not have been as lucky.