The 12 minutes of time on the clock seemed to take forever.
It was a slow burn, an inexorable collapse, a home loss that felt so costly, so dramatic with a road trip looming.
“We just had a lot of unfortunate events,” Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns said.
The Wolves’ 129-123 overtime loss to Detroit on Wednesday came after they built a 14-point lead through three quarters — and at Target Center, which has been such a secure place so far this season. It came following a barrage of three-pointers by the Pistons, who had lost six of seven games and were struggling to shoot the ball. The long-range assault seemed to leave the Wolves concussed.
“Getting a lead isn’t easy,” forward Andrew Wiggins said. “And we just gave it away.”
The Wolves were outscored 40-26 in the fourth quarter and 11-5 in an overtime session that seemed, after the way the Pistons stormed back, like a foregone conclusion.
Minnesota (14-17), which lost for only the fifth time in 17 home games, was outscored 51-31 over the final 17 minutes. For most of that time, the Wolves appeared to be chafing against the officiating as much as they were trying to stop the Pistons.
Neither was particularly effective.
Derrick Rose, starting again for injured point guard Jeff Teague, had 33 points. Forward Robert Covington had 22, Towns and Wiggins 16.
Detroit got 34 points from Blake Griffin, with 18 coming in the fourth quarter. Reggie Bullock had a career-high 33, 10 in the fourth. The Pistons made 20 of 48 three-pointers overall — the third Wolves opponent in the past four games to hit 19 or more — and were 9-for-13 on three-pointers in the fourth quarter.
Asked what happened in the fourth quarter, Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau was terse, direct: “The way we started the quarter,” he said. “Fouling when there was no reason to foul. Not playing with verticality. Giving guys their shots. Forty-point quarter.”
The Pistons outscored the Wolves 20-8 over the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, and the lead dwindled. And even though the Wolves led for much of the rest of the way, they just couldn’t stop the Pistons — particularly Bullock and Griffin, who were a combined 10-for-14 overall and 6-for-7 on three-pointers in the fourth.
One of Thibodeau’s core principles is being aware of hot shooters and guarding them accordingly. And yet the Wolves continued to give Griffin and Bullock open looks.
“You have to react to what’s going on in the game,” Thibodeau said. “They made 20 threes.”
Still, the Wolves had a chance to win. Down 116-115 late in regulation, Rose missed a running shot and Griffin got the rebound. But Rose tipped the ball to Dario Saric, who dished to Covington for a corner three and a 118-116 lead with 7.4 seconds left.
But the Wolves couldn’t get a stop. Reggie Jackson missed a driving layup, but Andre Drummond’s (16 points, 16 rebounds) putback with 0.6 seconds left forced OT.
In the overtime the Wolves went 2-for-9, missing all five three-point attempts. With the score tied at 123, Drummond made a free throw. After Rose missed two shots, Jackson scored on a drive with 1:28 left to put the Pistons up three.
Now the Wolves have to right the ship on the road, where six of their next seven games will be played. Not easy, especially after Wednesday’s series of unfortunate events.
“Momentum, momentum shift,” Covington said. “Just things weren’t going our way. It was tough to play like that. We just couldn’t adjust.”