It was one of those nights, but that didn't make it any easier.
The Timberwolves were in Cleveland Monday trying to sweep their two-day, back-to-back series with the Cavaliers after having rallied to win in Minneapolis on Sunday night.
And they almost did it again. But, ultimately, they just couldn't hit enough shots in a 100-98 loss.
"I thought we did enough defensively to win that game,'' Wolves coach Ryan Saunders said. "We didn't turn the ball over [just eight times]. I thought we had a lot of open looks, too. We had looks that didn't fall. On the second night of a back-to-back that hurts.''
Down 10 early in the fourth, the Wolves' bench helped them rally for a brief, one-point lead on Jaylen Nowell's jumper with 8 minutes, 25 seconds left.
But Darius Garland had five points in an 11-2 run that put the Cavs up eight mid-quarter. D'Angelo Russell hit two threes in the final 62 seconds, the second with 14.1 seconds left that drew the Wolves within four. Malik Beasley scored with 6.1 seconds left to make it a two-point game. But Taurean Prince hit two free throws with 3.9 seconds left to seal the win.
Ultimately, it was too little, too late.
"It was frustrating,'' said Nowell, who had 12 points, one of three bench players in double figures. The others were Naz Reid, who returned after missing two games because of a sore wrist. He hit two corner threes as the Wolves rallied for that brief fourth-quarter lead. Jaden McDaniels added 11 points.
"We made sure to make up for it on the defensive end, that's why it was such a close game," Nowell added. "We were playing really hard on defense, it was just the shots weren't falling.''
Part of it might have been due to rim protection by center Jarrett Allen, who started with Andrew Drummond (back) and Larry Nance, Jr. (wrist) out of the lineup. Allen responded with 23 points, 18 rebounds, five blocked shots and countless others affected.
The backcourt of Garland and Collin Sexton combined for 45 points. And that backcourt play was the difference.
After combining for 10 of the Wolves' 16 three-pointers in Sunday's come-from-behind victory, Beasley and Russell were a combined 12-for-33 and made just three of 15 three-point attempts. It has become an interesting habit of Beasley, who is shooting 50.5% overall at home, just 36.3% on the road.
"It's always a concern when the shots aren't falling,'' Saunders said. "But that's not something I'm worried about with Malik individually. He's a shooter. And shooters, doesn't matter if you're on the playground, different cities, different gyms. I always have confidence in Malik shooting the basketball.''
The Wolves (5-15) held Cleveland to 41.7% shooting. The Cavs (10-11) made just seven of 11 three-pointers. But Minnesota couldn't take advantage, shooting just 39.2%, making 11 of 38 threes. Cleveland also had a 16-point edge at the free-throw line.
"I feel like it was just one of those nights,'' Saunders said. "Even in the zone in the first half I thought we got quality looks. And a number of shots that Beasley had, and DLo too, those are shots we feel confident in those guys taking. … I thought our process was right on a number of possessions. We just didn't hit shots.''
The good news was Reid was able to return. Juancho Hernangomez's return from COVID-19 protocols appears close, as does Karl-Anthony Towns. Saunders and the players left Cleveland feeling the team was making strides on the defensive end.
But those shots …
"Just got to get better,'' said Anthony Edwards, who scored 13 in his third straight start. "We just have to be better.''
The Star Tribune did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews after the game.