LOS ANGELES – With apologies to Winston Churchill, these Timberwolves often appear to be a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.
And so they were again in Tuesday’s 119-115 loss when they finally awakened to play 14 inspired final minutes that still weren’t enough to beat Kobe Bryant’s 38-point night and a Los Angeles Lakers team that ended a 10-game losing streak. The Lakers just barely avoided setting a franchise record for consecutive losses.
Facing the Lakers on Tuesday and the Clippers on Wednesday, the Wolves on Tuesday trailed by as many as 16 points. A 26-11 run that ended the third quarter and started the fourth got them back in a game and helped briefly give them a one-point lead they couldn’t hold in the fourth quarter.
So where was the team that finished the game — and recorded a season-high 36 assists despite the lousy start — the rest of the night?
“I have absolutely no idea,” Wolves interim head coach Sam Mitchell said.
Wolves guard Zach LaVine said his team, well, stunk during those opening 34 minutes Tuesday.
“We didn’t look like we wanted to play,” LaVine said. “If we knew why, we wouldn’t have played that way. I can’t tell you. It’s really disappointing we came out that way. We can’t always be climbing out of a hole.”
Andrew Wiggins said he was equally mystified about what was missing for more than 2 ½ quarters.
“When we find it out, we’ll know,” Wiggins said. “It’s on the players. No one can teach you to play hard all 48 minutes. That’s on us. … If we can play like that every second, we’d win a lot of games.”
Waiting on Griffin
Wednesday’s opponent, the Clippers, play on without star forward Blake Griffin, who hasn’t played since Christmas Day, first because of a partially torn left quadriceps and now because of a fractured hand sustained when he punched an assistant equipment manager during a night out in Toronto on Jan. 23.
The Clippers keep winning regardless —15-4 in that time — while they await the findings of a NBA investigation into the incident.
“It’d be a lot harder waiting for a decision if he were healthy,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
The Wolves on Wednesday again played without forward Kevin Garnett (leg), center Nikola Pekovic (sore foot) and guard Kevin Martin (bruised hand). Garnett and Martin missed their sixth consecutive games, Pekovic his second consecutive.
Martin said on Tuesday that he’s hopeful he’ll play again before next week’s All-Star break. Garnett said Tuesday his leg is improving and he intends to return “soon.”
Mitchell said he’s uncertain when any of the three will play again.
“I don’t even have time to think about that,” he said. “I spend my time thinking how we can get our young players better.”