The trade was done and Jimmy Butler was gone. But the new faces — Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless and Dario Saric — had not officially arrived as the Wolves tipped off Monday night against Brooklyn in a quiet Target Center awash in empty blue seats.
It was quiet, especially early. Quiet enough that the occasional opinion on the team’s current state could be heard coming out of the stands.
But, in a holding pattern waiting for the new roster to coalesce, the Wolves did end their five-game losing streak with a 120-113 victory to improve to 5-1 at home.
“It’s been a struggle,’’ said Jeff Teague, who returned from having missed six games because a knee injury to score 24 points and add 11 assists. “But we got back home and took care of the home court.’’
It was an oddly flat game that took a nasty turn in the closing seconds of the first half when Nets guard Caris LeVert suffered what appeared to be a gruesome injury to his right leg, an injury that left his teammates in tears and the Wolves circled in prayer.
“It’s a tough situation,’’ Wolves forward Anthony Tolliver said. “Because we all know that could be us. We wanted to do what we could, so we got together and prayed for him.’’
And then, coming out after halftime, the Wolves were efficient enough to bring home the victory.
It wasn’t pretty. Minnesota’s 23 turnovers were the most in a victory since 2009. Second-chance points were a problem, again. But the team’s offensive efficiency — the Wolves shot 52.5 percent overall, 60.6 in the second half and 75 percent in the fourth quarter — more than made up for it.
“We came together as a team,’’ said guard Derrick Rose, who admitted it wasn’t a very pretty game. “In this league you have to take it wherever you can.’’
Teague hit on eight of 14 shots. Rose added 23 points and five assists, his fourth straight game with 21 or more points. Andrew Wiggins returned from a thigh bruise to score 13 with six rebounds and three assists.
And then there was Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 25 points on 9-for-11 shooting, and 21 rebounds. But he also had 10 turnovers, and was apparently getting grief about that from teammates after the game.
“Everyone is talking about it,’’ he said. “It’s not like something I’m proud of. It’s not like I’m going home, like, ‘Yooo, what’s up?’ ’’
But it was an important win, one that came despite D’Angelo Russell scoring 31 and hitting nine of the Nets’ 18 three-pointers. Optics don’t matter when you have a losing streak to break. The Wolves were coming off an 0-5 road trip. This was a good way to start a stretch in which Minnesota will play 10 of the next 12 at home.
“Absolutely,’’ Tolliver said. “Whenever you win in this league, no matter who it’s against, it always gives you a little bit of a boost. Just like momentum can go negative, it can go positive, too.’’
With an eight-point lead whittled to one in the fourth quarter, three-pointers from Tolliver and Josh Okogie spurred the Wolves (5-9) to victory. All five starters scored in double figures.
“It’s a win,’’ Towns said. “And it’s good to get a win, after the slide we’ve been having. Doesn’t matter how it comes, pretty or ugly.’’
The new players will practice with the team Tuesday. Wednesday the Wolves will host New Orleans in, really, the first real game of the new era.
“Trades happen,’’ Teague said. “We just have to keep moving forward.’’