PORTLAND, ORE. – Friday’s stupefying 130-119 overtime loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles being an exception, Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau has played young stars Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns purposely and to the end almost every night.
With just 10 games remaining, Thibodeau said now is not the time for yielding or rest, even if draft-lottery jockeying has replaced playoff aspirations.
Wiggins played 44 minutes Friday, Towns nearly 43 while working overtime. They are third and fourth respectively in minutes played, behind only Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and Cleveland’s LeBron James. But neither Lowry nor James has played every game like the two young Wolves have.
“I want our guys to get used to what star players do,” Thibodeau said. “Our starters, they’re going to play. They have to play. They have to learn. They have to grow.”
When asked if he’ll dial back their minutes — Wiggins is averaging 37.3 minutes, Towns 36.9 a game — or rest his top players for a night, Thibodeau said his young stars must know the burden an NBA superstar carries.
“When you look at what a [Houston’s James] Harden does and all the great players, that’s what they do,” Thibodeau said. “That’s what I expect of them, and I want them to concentrate on trying to win. We’re still learning and growing and it’s all part of it.”
Uncharacteristically, each player didn’t finish either Friday or Saturday’s game.
On Friday, Wiggins fouled out with 1:17 left in overtime while Thibodeau benched Towns for the game’s final 1:24 in a 130-119 overtime loss to the Lakers. On Saturday, Wiggins played just 32 minutes and Towns 31 in the 112-100 loss, a game that was not as close as the final score indicated.
Making a point
Thibodeau’s decision to play all three of his point guards — Ricky Rubio, Kris Dunn and Tyus Jones — together in Los Angeles went well enough, expect to see more of it.
It particularly succeeded in a brief second-quarter stretch when three heightened their team’s defensive urgency and the Wolves outscored the Lakers 15-2.
“We’re all comfortable with one another, we know each other’s game, we all can play in different spots,” Dunn said. “It’s pretty fun.”
Jones went back to work in Portland Saturday while his younger brother, Tre, led Apple Valley High School to a 60-54 victory over Champlin Park for the Minnesota State High School Class 4A basketball title.
Asked before the game if he was nervous for his little brother, Jones said: “Just excited for him because I know he puts in a lot of hard work to get where he’s at right now. My mom was definitely nervous today.”
Tre Jones had 24 points and 18 rebounds to win his second state title.
• Wolves veteran guard Brandon Rush on that 40-foot, behind-the-back pass Rubio flung to him for a breakaway dunk Friday: “I didn’t even know he did it behind his back. It was perfect, too. But that’s Ricky’s game. He’s got that stuff in his bag.”
• Thibodeau softened some Saturday his reason for benching Towns for Friday’s final 1:24, saying he wanted to try a different defensive trap with a smaller lineup. “I was just trying to get something going,” he said.
• Wiggins missed another late-game free throw with 46 seconds left in regulation Friday in a game that went to overtime.
“Just have the courage to take and make,” Thibodeau said. “The ball is going to be in his hands at the end of games. He’s got to step up there and make them.”