After some hours to reflect, and after a lengthy film session, Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau was still talking about toughness — or the lack thereof — in the wake of Monday’s loss to Memphis.
The loss, called by guard Jeff Teague the worst of the season “by far,’’ pushed the Wolves into sole possession of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference entering Tuesday’s NBA games.
And while Thibodeau talked about the need to look ahead to Wednesday’s game with lowly Atlanta, it was important to have learned the lessons that came from a loss to a Grizzlies team that came to the Twin Cities having lost 23 of 24 games.
Thibodeau said he talked to his team about the need to be mentally ready to bounce back. He talked about not taking teams with bad records for granted.
But he also talked, over and over, about toughness.
“There is a preseason intensity,’’ he said. “Then there is the start of the regular season. And now you have a playoff race going on.
“You’re facing a guy like [Grizzlies center Marc] Gasol, who has a lot of pride. And the physicality? We didn’t do a good job with that.’’
Thibodeau said the Wolves lacked that toughness on the perimeter when the Grizzlies went with a three-guard set of Mario Chalmers, Dillon Brooks and Wayne Selden, who came off the bench to score 23 points.
He talked about all the open threes the Grizzlies got, many in the corner and some in transition, when Gasol was left alone on top of the key.
“Can’t sit in the paint when he’s training in,’’ Thibodeau said. “We made that mistake a number of times.’’
Both Karl-Anthony Towns and Jamal Crawford — a combined 0-for-9 in the fourth quarter Monday, when the Wolves shot 3-for-17 and were outscored 23-11 — declined to talk with the media after practice.
“As I mentioned to the guys today, the disappointment from the loss? Learn from it,’’ Thibodeau said. “Get ready for the next one. We can’t look backward. We have to look ahead.’’
With seven games remaining, in a tight Western Conference race, there is no other choice. Wednesday the Wolves will host an Atlanta team that has lost nine of its past 10 games but also a Hawks team that ended a losing streak with a victory over the Wolves in Atlanta earlier this season.
“We have to have a collective will to bounce back [Wednesday],’’ Thibodeau said. “You just have to keep coming.
“When you fall short of something you want, you have to pick yourself up and keep going until we get it done. I believe we will get it done.’’
• Jimmy Butler and Crawford stayed on the court long after practice shooting three-pointers. Butler, coming back from Feb. 25 knee surgery, is improving rapidly. Thibodeau said he’s feeling good, doing two rehab sessions daily. But he has not been cleared for contact.
“Even once he’s cleared by the doctors for contact, there is another step after that,’’ Thibodeau said. “As I told him, this is big picture. When you’re ready to go, then we go.’’
• Derrick Rose, who has missed three games because of a sprained ankle, did some shooting Tuesday but is unlikely to return Wednesday. Thibodeau said having Rose would have helped on the perimeter, toughness-wise, against the Grizzlies on Monday.