ORLANDO – As the seconds ticked away in a 122-112 loss to the Magic, the Timberwolves’ third consecutive loss, the team’s bench was quiet. Jeff Teague, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Dario Saric all had blank stares as they looked out onto the Amway Center floor.
Jerryd Bayless was missing from the scene, having hobbled off to the locker room moments earlier because of a sore right big toe, the latest casualty of the pandemic afflicting Wolves point guards.
Earlier in the day, Wolves management sent the message that it wanted the Wolves to make a push for the playoffs by not dealing anybody at Thursday’s 2 p.m. trade deadline.
“It’s a nice gesture,” forward Anthony Tolliver said. “But just standing pat and trying to make a playoff push doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. It doesn’t just happen by saying it’s going to happen. The guys that are on the court, we have to change things to make it happen.”
The Wolves right now don’t much resemble a playoff team. For one, they’re shorthanded with four main contributors out and Bayless a question mark for Friday’s game in New Orleans. The Wolves could be without their top four point guards as they try to stop a losing streak. To make matters worse, two-way rookie Jared Terrell is battling a sprained ankle injury in Iowa. An exasperated Ryan Saunders was stumped to explain the Wolves’ luck at that position.
“We’re searching,” the interim head coach said. “So, if you can play point guard … we’re searching. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.”
The roster that’s left lost Tuesday to a Memphis team without Marc Gasol and fell Thursday to a Magic team it defeated by 17 on Jan. 4 at Target Center. The problem was defense and Orlando’s hot shooting. In the teams’ first meeting, the Magic hit 26 of its first 34 shots before cooling off. On Thursday, Orlando shot 65 percent in the first half and didn’t cool off until it was too late. The Magic shot 54 percent for the game, with Terrence Ross tearing the Wolves apart with 32 points off the bench while Nikola Vucevic had 21.
According to Andrew Wiggins (23 points on 10-for-28 shooting), the Wolves didn’t “make them feel us.”
“That’s the main thing,” he said. “Try to take away their strengths. … Get into the body, make it hard for them, take away the spots you want to go to.”
The Wolves had an efficient game from Towns, who had 27 points on 12-for-16 shooting, but the defense was a step slow all night.
“We didn’t come out, execute our game plan, so we made it tough on ourselves,” Towns said. “They were hitting shots, and some days you get lucky when you’re not executing but they’re not hitting shots. We weren’t lucky.”
The Wolves could use a little bit of it, especially given their health concerns, which might be catching up to them.
“You have no other choice. Just got to keep working, keep playing,” Tolliver said. “And whoever is out there has got to play as hard as they can so they can try and get wins.”
Wins that are becoming more elusive.
“Guys in this locker room think we have a chance,” Towns said. “We know we have a chance. It’s just up to us to not have games like [Thursday].”
There have been enough already.