CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Saturday, finally, the Timberwolves locker room felt alive. For a week, through four straight losses — at least a couple of them heart-wrenching — the locker room had been quiet, thick with frustration.
Saturday, players laughed, joked, pranked. Gorgui Dieng threw ice on Zach LaVine. Laughing, LaVine threw a fistful back.
Winning can be fun.
“It’s good to be able to talk, to make fun of each other, just have fun,’’ Karl-Anthony Towns said.
All it took was an odds-defying 125-120 overtime victory over Charlotte at the Spectrum Center.
Andrew Wiggins’ three-pointer from way behind the arc tied the score with 8.9 seconds left, capping a 9-2 run to end regulation and force overtime. Then the Wolves scored the first seven points in the extra session, a run that included an unlikely corner three-pointer from Gorgui Dieng.
“This was great,’’ said Wiggins, who scored 29 points, six in overtime. Towns had 27 — eight in OT — with 15 rebounds. LaVine had 17. In another strong showing from the bench, both Shabazz Muhammad and Nemanja Bjelica had 12 points.
“Charlotte is a good team,’’ Wiggins said of the 11-9 Hornets. “This is a big win for us. This is going to lift us. But we need to add to it, keep going, keep learning, keep getting better.’’
The loss ended a six-game losing streak to the Hornets and ended the Wolves’ four-game losing streak, which included two losses to New York in which the Wolves were right there at the end only to let it slip away.
Not Saturday. Not this time.
Frank Kaminsky scored three of his 21 points on a 25-footer with 1:26 left that put the Hornets up 104-97.
But the Wolves (6-14), who were out of timeouts, got into a flow.
Moments later, after forcing a Charlotte turnover, LaVine’s three-pointer with 38.8 seconds left cut that lead to four. After Kemba Walker — who scored 22 points — turned the ball over, Dieng fed Ricky Rubio for a three-pointer with 31.9 seconds left. Walker scored on a floater, but then Wiggins calmly hit from downtown to tie the score at 106.
“I knew we were down three,’’ Wiggins said. “I was like, ‘All right, it’s go time. We’re going to either lose with shot or tie the game.’ We tied the game.’’
And that momentum carried over.
Towns opened the OT with a nice pass to Wiggins for a layup. At the other end Walker — who had missed a shot at the regulation buzzer — was fouled but missed both free throws. Rubio found Dieng in the corner, and it was nothing but net, sending the Wolves bench into a frenzy. After Walker threw the ball away, Rubio fed Towns for a thundering fast-break dunk.
This one wasn’t going to get away. From the time Kaminsky hit that three-pointer late in regulation to Towns’ slam, the Wolves outscored the Hornets 16-2.
How? By sticking to the plan. There was no hero ball Saturday. Even late, down, the Wolves kept the ball moving.
And, as coach Tom Thibodeau said, ‘’It always looks better when the ball’s going in.’’
Said Towns: “We stayed disciplined. That’s very encouraging. We stuck to the game plan when we were losing. … Next thing you know we’re tied and going into overtime.’’
The Wolves gave up 14 three-pointers but hit 10 of their own. They scored 62 points in the paint, had the edge on the break and in second-chance points.
They also won a game that looked pretty unwinnable with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter.
Too tired to get up and shower, LaVine smiled. “My legs are kind of stuck to the ground right now,’’ he said. “But it feels great.’’