The last time the Timberwolves reached Thanksgiving without owning a three-game losing streak was 12 years ago, when Kevin Garnett played and Dwane Casey coached them.
Losers at home Sunday to Detroit and Monday at Charlotte, the Wolves reach their final game before Thanksgiving and have the chance Wednesday against Orlando to prove good teams don’t lose three games consecutively.
“You don’t let one become two,” Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns said, “so we definitely have to make sure we don’t let it become three.”
The Wolves have lost consecutive games twice this season, resoundingly to Indiana and Detroit on back-to-back nights in the season’s second week and again on consecutive nights this week.
They say one thing leads to another and in the NBA, as Wolves fans these past 14 years well know, that applies to losses as well.
“We’ve got to find a rhythm to winning,” Wolves star Jimmy Butler said. “We’ve got to get back to the fundamentals. Everything we talked about, you can’t drop three in a row because then everything starts to go in the wrong direction. But we’ll be OK. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves, I’ll tell you that. Go out there and figure it out.”
The Wolves led the Pistons by 11 points with 10 minutes remaining but lost 100-97 after they were outscored 29-17 in the fourth quarter after Detroit ran pick-and-roll plays featuring big man Andre Drummond and guard Reggie Jackson repeatedly and scored possession after possession.
On Monday, they led by six points in the second quarter and trailed by four points after three quarters in Charlotte, but they were outrebounded all night and outdone by Hornets star center Dwight Howard, whose 25-point, 20-rebound, four-block performance turned back time.
Oh, Charlotte outscored the Wolves 34-22 in the fourth quarter, too, on a night when they were bigger, stronger and tougher.
“It’s the NBA, that’s what makes it so great,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It’s a challenge. You have to have a resiliency, a toughness, a perseverance mind-set, a togetherness to get through things. Right now we have to get a lot tougher.”
The Wolves lost one night after every starter except for Taj Gibson played between at least 38 minutes and nearly 42.
No starter played more than Andrew Wiggins’ 36 minutes Monday.
In addition to Sunday’s heavy minutes, the Wolves on Monday played their third game in four days and the 10th road game in their first 17 games this season.
“Just come back, gather ourselves,” Thibodeau said about the immediate future. “We’ve had a heavy road schedule, a lot of in-and-out. Get our legs back, get back and get in the gym, get some work in and get ready. They keep coming. It’s a long grind. You’ve got to bring it every day.”
Wednesday’s game against Orlando is the start of a four-game homestand that also will bring in Miami, Phoenix and Washington.
“We’ve got some work to do,” Towns said.
Now 10-7, the Wolves will have played more home games than road games by the time the Wizards visit Tuesday.
“We’ve just got to bounce back and play well at home, play with a lot of energy,” Wolves point guard Jeff Teague said. “It makes a man out of you every game. It’s going to be a tough fight, but we have a lot of home games coming up and we have an opportunity to get on track.”
By the time the home stand ends, the Wolves will have played 21 games, more than a fourth of their schedule.
By then, they’ll at least have an inkling where this season is headed.
“Of course, everybody in the NBA goes through this,” Gibson said. “Just get back in the gym, watch film and learn from it. That’s the best I can honestly say from my previous years of going through it. We can’t hold our heads down. We understand we’ve got a lot more games coming. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you. You just have to bounce back.”
Veteran guard Jamal Crawford is going through this for an 18th season in the NBA, and he calls his team a “work in progress.”
“We’re a long way from being where we will be, but I think that’s a good thing,” Crawford said. “We’ve got something to work toward.”
On Wednesday, that means stop the losing before it gains momentum.
“It doesn’t matter where you lose at, who you lose to,” Butler said. “You never want to lose. We’ve got to figure it out. Two in a row is tough, but we definitely can’t afford to have three in a row.”