NEW YORK – They say things come in threes.
Just don’t tell Timberwolves point guard Tyus Jones.
“I sure hope there isn’t a third,” he said. “Knock on wood.”
A replacement for injured starter Jeff Teague these past four games, Jones dislocated his left pinkie finger late in a loss at Milwaukee last week and needed two stitches to close a split lip sustained with 40.4 seconds left in Wednesday’s 98-97 loss at Brooklyn.
The Wolves trailed 96-94 when Jones cut to free himself for an inbounds pass and Nets forward Quincy Acy’s moving arm caught him right in the mouth as Jones ran toward the pass that never came because a whistle sounded first.
“I was just cutting to get open,” Jones said. “It was a weird, freak accident.”
Acy was called for a foul away from the ball, which gave the Wolves a free throw and an ensuing possession as well. Jimmy Butler made the penalty free throw, then used the possession to get to the line for two more free throws, his 17th and 18th of the night.
When Butler made all three, the Wolves led 97-96 with 33 seconds left. But Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie’s driving, 12-foot fadeaway shot with 9.7 seconds stood as the winner when Butler’s 22-foot pullup shot just before the final buzzer missed.
It was just the Wolves’ second loss in nine games after they had built leads of 17-0 and 16-0 to start their two previous games. They outscored the Nets 24-10 on free throws — Butler made 16 of those — but were outscored 42-3 on three pointers by a Brooklyn team that made 14 to their one.
“That stung pretty bad,” Jones said Thursday. “We felt like we could have and should have won. The good thing is we have the chance to get it right tomorrow.”
The Wolves play the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics in snowy Boston on Friday.
Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau cited his team’s “low energy” for Wednesday’s slow start that his team finally boosted in the third quarter right about the time Jones stole the ball and went down the floor for an emphatic slam dunk while Nets guard Allen Crabbe closed fast.
It was Jones’ first dunk in the NBA.
He was asked Thursday what got into him.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I missed a couple easy layups over the last couple weeks, so I wanted to make sure I put that one down. I saw Crabbe closing in. That’s what kind of determined it. I put it in my mind that I was going to dunk.”
Jones’ teammates approved.
“They were all hyped, they were all excited,” Jones said. “They’re always on me, ‘Why don’t you dunk? Why don’t you dunk?’ So I finally had to put one down for them so they would get off my back. I think maybe it gave us a little spark, but I wasn’t doing it for a spark or anything like that.”
The dunk was a first just like all the other firsts this past week.
“I’ve had a lot of firsts with the dislocated finger and the stitches in the mouth now,” he said.
Good thing he didn’t choose to play hockey.
“I’m glad I chose to play basketball because stitches in the mouth are not fun,” he said.