For all the misses, air balls, clanks and in-and-outs, perhaps the most amazing thing is that the Timberwolves-Nuggets score was tied, with the seconds ticking down in overtime at Target Center on Sunday afternoon.
But that didn’t make it feel any better, did it?
“Look at my face,” Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns said. “What do you think?”
This comeback story did not have a happy ending. On a night when the Wolves shot only 35.1 percent overall and went 6-for-45 on three-point shots — those 39 misses are the third most in NBA history according to Elias Sports — they were tied with Denver until center Nikola Jokic, hounded by Towns, hit a 15-foot, turnaround fadeaway shot for a 100-98 overtime Nuggets victory in front of 13,553 fans.
Down 16 points with 6:43 left in the fourth quarter, the Wolves held the Nuggets scoreless while striding back into a 90-90 tie on — you guessed it — Towns’ three-pointer with 42.4 seconds left.
The Wolves took a two-point lead on an Andrew Wiggins drive early in overtime — pushing the Wolves’ run to 18-0 — but it didn’t last. Two three-pointers by Will Barton helped give Denver a four-point lead with 1:52 left. Josh Okogie scored, then stole the ball and fed it to Robert Covington for a game-tying layup with 26.2 seconds left.
But out of a timeout, Jokic hit the game-winner.
It was the third loss in four games for the Wolves (5-4) who play at Detroit on Monday night. Denver (7-2) remained second in the Western Conference.
“A lot of in-and-outs, a lot of great looks that we had,” Covington said. “Definitely it felt [like] there was a lid [on the basket]. That’s part of what happened, what allowed us not to come out with this win.”
Towns scored 25 points with 16 rebounds and six assists. But he shot 8-for-23 overall, 3-for-14 on threes. Andrew Wiggins had 25, going 1-for-6 on threes. Okogie came off the bench for 17, but was only 4-for-12 from the field.
You get the idea.
All five Nuggets starters were in double figures, led by Jokic (20), Jamal Murray (15) and Paul Millsap (14).
“It’s disappointing,” Wolves coach Ryan Saunders insisted. “I understand. I always say I’m going to take positives from the game, even losses. … We said with about six minutes left, ‘We’re going to make one push here.’ These guys came back. They fought.”
The Wolves led by as many as nine in the second quarter, before Denver came back within two at the half. Minnesota was outscored 27-13 in the third quarter while going 4-for-17 — 0-for-10 on threes. And the lead grew to 16 on a trey by Gary Harris with 6:43 left.
To the Wolves’ credit, they dug in, finishing regulation on a 16-0 run that included nine free throws. Towns had seven points in the run.
But they couldn’t sustain it. After Wiggins scored to open the overtime, the Wolves went 3-for-10 the rest of the way, missing all five three-pointers. Down two coming out of a time out after Jokic hit, the Wolves were unable to get a good shot.
Afterward the Wolves were resolute. They will continue to shoot the long ball, continue to take open threes when the opportunity arises.
“You have to,” Covington said. “Because there were a lot of good looks — a lot of good looks. [Those] shots are gonna fall. You’ve gotta believe in them, that’s all.”