NEW YORK – The Timberwolves corrected their previously abominable third quarters Tuesday night at Brooklyn. It still didn’t prevent a 119-110 loss to the Nets that made their missed free throws, missed layups, missed offensive execution in the fourth quarter with the game on the line seem secondary.
“Well, 110 points is more than enough to win,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Unless we correct the defensive end, it’s going to be a struggle. That has to become a priority by everyone, otherwise nothing positive is going to happen.”
The Wolves squandered Andrew Wiggins’ 36-point game — a career scoring high, by a point — partly because Wiggins missed consecutive free throws that would have tied the score with 3½ minutes left, partly because Zach LaVine missed a driving layup that, too, would have tied the score moments later, partly because they had a 24-second shot-clock violation and couldn’t get their mitts on a loose ball when it really mattered.
But mostly they allowed a remade team that is now 3-4 while they’re 1-5 to score 54 points in the paint and make 12 three-point shots on a night when starting point guard Kris Dunn got into foul trouble in the first half and Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng found it in the second half.
“If you’re going to give up one, you can’t give up both,” Anthony-Towns said. “We did that today. We’ve got to fix it.”
Add up Tuesday’s third quarter when the Nets outscored them merely 22-19 and a fourth quarter when their offense couldn’t save them from their defense and the Wolves are languishing in the NBA standings with one-victory Dallas and Washington and just ahead of winless Philadelphia and New Orleans.
Wiggins’ six three-pointers made was another career high.
“I’ve been working on them,” he said. “I’m shooting worse than last year. I’ve just to keep repetition, working on it in practice. We missed a lot of tough shots around the rim. We just have to regroup.
“We’ve got to want it. We’ve got to play with a sense of desperation. We’ve got to be the first one on the ground, grab every rebound, make every hustle play. ”
LaVine was one of those who missed at the rim with a shot that went around the rim and came out.
“I’ve got to make that,” LaVine said. “I’m too athletic, I’m too good not to make a layup like that, especially in crunch time. People are counting on me.”
The season is six games old and there are 76 still to play, but …
“It’s getting away from you and you have to stop it before we bleed out,” LaVine said. “We got to hurry up and do that. It’s really frustrating right now. We need to hurry up and start getting it together.”
Thibodeau said after the game that he knows one thing about Tuesday’s game.
“It’s not good enough. It’s not good enough to win,” he said. “I know that. So we have to get caught up in what wins and if you’re going to win, particularly when you’re on the road and when you’re shorthanded, your margin of error is very small. You’ve got to play hard. You’ve got to defend. You’ve got to play with discipline, you’ve got to rebound and you’ve got to keep your turnovers down.
“That’s all I know.”