The Timberwolves have been able to count on their defense ever since Robert Covington and Dario Saric joined the team in the Jimmy Butler trade. They had the best defensive rating in the league over their last eight games since Covington and Saric began playing.
But in their 118-109 loss to the Celtics, the Wolves, who lost for the first time in five games, were howling that their defense wasn’t good enough when it mattered most.
“This is a reminder more of us understanding why did we get to this point?” Towns said. We got to this point because we were executing our game plan almost flawlessly and playing the game with energy and defensive pride the whole game. We just kind of lacked it today. The moments we lacked it, Boston made sure to make us pay for it.”
That would be mostly in the fourth quarter when the Wolves made a few runs at the Celtics but failed to overtake them. The Wolves tied the score 89-89 with 8:48 remaining, only to have the Celtics go on 7-0 run. Then the Wolves pulled within 103-101 with 3:31 to play only to have Boston answer again with six straight points. The Celtics finished 10 of 20 from the floor in the fourth quarter.
“It wasn’t about what they did. It was more about us failing to do what we were supposed to do,” Towns said.
Towns said the Wolves weren’t able to execute their plan when it came to guarding the Celtics. Their were lapses mentally and it caused the Wolves to be a step late.
“We have to take more pride in making sure we’re almost as flawless as possible with our communication, with our positioning,” Towns said. “If we did that we would’ve came out with a win, but we didn’t. Compound that with not shooting very well, it’s a hard way to win basketball games, especially in the NBA, especially against the Celtics.”
There was an odd sighting at Saturday’s game – traveling calls.
If somebody tuned in, they might think traveling wasn’t dead in the NBA after all. There were nine travels in all, with six of them called on the Wolves.
Coach Tim Thibodeau said he wasn’t sure if he agreed with the calls – he’d have to review the tape. Towns wouldn’t let them be an excuse.
“Those calls or whatever doesn’t translate to us playing defense,” Towns said. “We can’t let offensive plays affect us on the defensive end. We just didn’t do what we needed to do.”
Thibodeau lamented the number of turnovers the Wolves had in all –16.
“Our turnovers hurt us and put them in the open floor and they got 3s off that,” Thibodeau said.
Andrew Wiggins, who has struggled with his shot of late, went 5-for-12 on Saturday and hit 2 of 5 3-pointers. He finished with 17 points, adding in 5 of 6 from the free-throw line. Wiggins isn’t all the way back from his shooting woes, but Saturday was a step in the right direction from where he was, with the nadir coming last week against the Bulls in an 0-for-12 stint.
“We got him going with drive and kick,” Thibodeau said.