OAKLAND, CALIF. – As their 5-24 record attests, this season long ago became more than a matter of victories and losses for the Timberwolves.
Saturday’s lopsided 110-97 loss at Golden State proved to be more a matter of trust.
Newly acquired guard Troy Daniels gained some with a fourth-quarter shooting performance that demonstrated why he was part of a recent trade that sent veteran Corey Brewer to Houston.
Former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett has lost some, outplayed at this point of the season by fellow reserve power forward Robbie Hummel.
Daniels scored 14 points in less than nine minutes off the bench, including a 4-for-4 exhibition in three-point shooting during a fourth quarter when each shot seemingly came from farther and farther away.
“He shoots the basketball,” Wolves coach Flip Saunders said. “I probably should have found a way to put him in sooner.”
Daniels, 23, emerged from D League anonymity and displayed that sweet shooting stroke for Houston in last spring’s first-round playoff series against Portland. He made seven of 11 three-point shots in Games 3 and 4, including a clutch one with 11 seconds left in the Rockets’ Game 3 victory.
On Saturday, his shooting shined on a team that has no other pure shooters as long as injured Kevin Martin remains sidelined.
“That’s my job,” Daniels said. “I always stay ready and shoot the ball when I’m open. That’s what I did tonight.”
His shooting was the Wolves’ only hope to catch up against a Warriors team outscored the Wolves 10-3 on three-pointers and built a 27-point lead before Daniels shot the Wolves back to a mere 13-point margin of defeat.
Daniels’ four threes matched the number that Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson each made before they sat out the fourth quarter.
“They got a lot of shooters,” Daniels said. “They got great shooters on that team. But it’s my job to shoot the ball, too, so that’s what I did.”
Daniels played 5:38 in his first three games after the Dec. 19 trade, took two shots — including one forced last-second, three-pointer — in those games and didn’t make either.
He averaged 6.4 minutes in 17 games played with the Rockets before the trade.
“I don’t know, that’s the nature of the game,” Daniels said. “Some games you’re going to play, some games you’re not when you’re young, but I’m always going to be ready. … This helps a lot, a confidence booster for me. It opened up a lot of eyes. I’m just looking toward the next game, helping them get wins.”
Saunders likely will find a way to use Daniels earlier Tuesday night at Utah, when the Wolves finish their three-game Western trip seeking to end an eight-game losing streak.
“As I told our guys, when you utilize your minutes on the floor, you either gain trust from your teammates and coaches or not,” Saunders said. “So he did a good job and gained some trust.”
Meanwhile, Bennett didn’t play until Saturday’s final seven minutes, when he entered a game that already had been long ago decided with rookie Glenn Robinson III.
Saunders opted instead to play Hummel more than 20 minutes as the backup to starting power forward Thaddeus Young. Hummel scored four points on 2-for-3 shooting, had five rebounds, three assists, a steal and two turnovers on a night when the Wolves had nearly as many turnovers as assists.
The Wolves turned the ball over 25 times and had 29 assists, including a career-high 14 from rookie point guard Zach LaVine. That’s the third-most by a Wolves rookie, behind only Stephon Marbury (17) and Pooh Richardson (15).
“He hasn’t played very well, and Robbie played very well,” Saunders said, referring to Bennett. “When you’re on the floor, you have opportunities. I just thought Robbie deserved the opportunity because he has been playing very well. A.B. has tried to fight through some things, been hurt a little bit. He’ll get other opportunities. They will come. I don’t feel he played with enough energy here lately, and I thought Robbie had.”
Raduljica to Wolves?
Serbian sports newspaper Sportski Zurnal reported Sunday that former Bucks center Miroslav Raduljica is finalizing a deal with the Wolves to join them for the rest of the season. Bought out by his Chinese team for $1.2 million last week, he’d give the Wolves a legitimately sized center — he’s a 7-footer — to back up Gorgui Dieng.
A Wolves source said that Raduljica is one of many options the team is considering for its 15th roster spot — currently held by Jeff Adrien — but that no final decision had been made as of Sunday.