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Saunders, Wolves not blaming officials for loss to Spurs

You could see the frustration on the Timberwolves’ faces. You could hear it in the boos of the fans at Target Center. You might think the Wolves were playing 8-on-5 in their 116-113 loss to the Spurs, but interim coach Ryan Saunders wasn’t letting the Wolves blame officials for the defeat.

“We’re a no excuse team,” Saunders said.

And none of the Wolves did that after the game. Karl-Anthony Towns declined to talk about the referees for fear that he would get fined and when asked what he thought of the officials, Jeff Teague just said: “[The Spurs] played hard. They played well. Had some guys make some tough shots.”

There were an unusually high number of fouls called on both sides. Entering the night, the Spurs had the league low for fouls per game at 18.5. The Wolves had the seventh fewest at 20.2. They combined for 53 on Friday.  The Wolves shot more free throws than the Spurs – 38 to 29.

Late-game execution

The Wolves had a chance to tie it before time ran out, but Derrick Rose’s 3-point attempt missed the rim completely. Saunders said the Wolves had a few options off of that side out-of-bounds play.

“We knew they were going to protect the 3-point line,” Saunders said. “We were comfortable with Derrick.”

A few possessions prior, Andrew Wiggins committed a turnover he’d like to have back when he made a bad pass that resulted in a dunk for Marco Belinelli. That dunk put the Spurs up five with 1:56 to play.

Wiggins said he was initially going to take a shot then spotted an open teammate, but made a pass.

“I just messed up,” he said. “That’s it.”

A new lineup

With Towns and Gorgui Dieng in foul trouble and Tyus Jones out because of a left ankle sprain, Ryan Saunders turned to an unusual lineup. He had Dario Saric and Taj Gibson on the floor together – normally those two rotate at the power forward position – with Anthony Tolliver, Rose and Jerryd Bayless. The unit held their own in the second quarter until Towns re-entered the game with the Wolves ahead 38-34.

The Wolves had deployed 673 different lineup combinations this season, according to, but that five-man combination had never been on the floor before for the Wolves.

-- Jeff Day contributed to this report


'Pretty gets you beat by 40.' Wolves search for ruggedness after blowout

PHILDELPHIA – The Timberwolves have lost 23 games this season, but in very few of them have they questioned their effort on the floor. There have been problems defensively and injuries, but almost every night the Wolves had had consistent effort, which made Tuesday’s 149-107 loss to the 76ers and former Wolves guard Jimmy Butler so baffling.

The Wolves looked listless, like they didn’t care and they saw it too. The phrase “We have to look ourselves in the mirror” came from the mouth of multiple players.

“We’re trying to make the playoffs,” guard Jeff Teague said. “A 40-point loss is tough against a playoff team. But that game was different. I don’t care what nobody says. The energy. The fans were different. They energy was different. They knew what time it was.”

The Wolves lost their watches. Teague, in a candid interview session after the game, said it’s up to the Wolves’ leaders to help the team move past this and correct the issues. When asked who the leaders on the team were, Teague didn’t mention other veterans like himself, Derrick Rose or Taj Gibson.

“We follow KAT,” Teague said, referring to Karl-Anthony Towns. “This is his team. And then it’s [Andrew Wiggins] and it trickled down from there. We go as they go. We’re going to get them the ball and we just expect them to be dogs. They’ve been doing that. KAT’s been a monster. Wigg’s been playing great. It just wasn’t our night.”

Teague also said the onus is on “all of us” to clean up the mess the Wolves made against Philadelphia. And that may require getting a little dirtier than they have been lately.

“Collective unit. Come together. And we just got to be a rugged team,” Teague said. “We can’t be a pretty team. Right now, I think we’re a pretty team. And pretty gets you beat by 40. We got to be ugly.”

Added Gibson: “The effort wasn’t there. When you don’t have the effort and things aren’t going your way, things like that will happen too.”

More than the effort, defense was again a problem for the Wolves, who allowed Philadelphia to hit open 3s and get to the rim with ease. The 76ers shot an jaw-dropping 60 percent.

“Our communication was not up to our standards,” interim coach Ryan Saunders said. “We’ve got to do a better job of talking out our coverages and talking out our matchups.”

But the problems Tuesday went beyond beyond Xs and Os, and the Wolves need to figure out how to address that in a hurry.

“They scored close to 150 points,” Towns said. “It’s more than just communication. It was us. … We didn’t compete. No edge. We didn’t play like that game mattered.”


Philadelphia center Joel Embiid is one of the funniest players on social media and after the game Tuesday, he set his humor on the Wolves. Referring to the infamous preseason practice in which Butler reportedly beat the Wolves starters with the third string, Embiid tweeted: “It was an honor to be part of the 3rd stringers and get a win against real NBA starters. #TheProcess”

Embiid earned the right to crow a bit, after he dominated to the tune of 31 points and 13 rebounds.

To injury

There was a scary moment for the Wolves when guard Tyus Jones hit the deck and suffered an apparent left ankle injury in the third quarter. Jones needed help to the locker room and a source said Jones has a high ankle sprain. The team will evaluate him again Wednesday.

Jones is just the latest Wolves guard to be dealing with ankle issues. Teague and Derrick Rose have both missed time because of injured ankles. 


Final, 1/18 1 2 3 4 F
San Antonio 27-20 28 30 30 28 116
Minnesota 21-24 31 27 32 23 113

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