DENVER – Gorgui Dieng could joke about it a day later, but in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s 107-99 Timberwolves loss against New Orleans, Dieng was so upset during a timeout that he smashed a water bottle, causing liquid to go everywhere in the bench area.
Dieng flashed a smile when asked Thursday if that was the first bottle he ever broke, but he added multiple times that he was ticked off, except he used a not-so-fit-for print variation of ticked.
“It happens,” Dieng said. “Sometimes, people lose it.”
Dieng was upset with himself and upset at how the Wolves were playing Wednesday, when they dropped their eighth consecutive game to a team that had lost 13 in a row coming into Target Center. Ending their slump isn’t going to get easier. They embark on another four-game road trip beginning with a game against the Nuggets on Friday, and Karl-Anthony Towns is in danger of missing his second consecutive game because of a left knee injury. Towns, along with Jarrett Culver (flu-like symptoms), did not practice after the Wolves landed in Denver.
The Wolves season, which began so promisingly at 10-8, is in danger of spiraling downward on this road trip, especially if Towns can’t play in multiple games.
Dieng, one of the most veteran Wolves, wasn’t mincing words Thursday, saying the current streak has been hard to take.
“Sometimes you lose and you got to keep our composure, especially me and everybody else,” he said. “It’s hard. It’s the NBA. Nothing is given easy. … Early in the season, I think we had a new system teams didn’t know. They sleep on us. We beat everybody, and now we drew attention to ourselves. We’ve just got to be more focused.”
But Dieng, coach Ryan Saunders and veteran guard Shabazz Napier were quick to point out the losing hasn’t affected how the Wolves relate to one another on and off the court. Those relationships, they said, are still intact.
“The good thing about it is we got a lot of guys who enjoy to be around each other,” Napier said. “Guys are very positive. I think we all understand that no one loves losing. Everyone hates it, but it’s a part of the game and we understand the only way for us to get out of this slump is to keep working hard.”
Working hard, and playing with a bit of an “edge,” as Dieng said. He said he didn’t see that in Wednesday’s game when there should’ve been one, especially against a struggling opponent who was on the tail end of a back-to-back set of games while the Wolves were well-rested.
“It’s a competition, and you have to have an edge … ” Dieng said. “[Wednesday] we didn’t look like it, the way we played, honestly. We were lucky because our defense kept us in the game, but we have to be more aggressive and have to play like we lost eight games in a row.”
The Wolves have wrought horrors on the road the past two seasons. There was the 0-9 combined record on their first two trips last season before they bid adieu to Jimmy Butler and Tom Thibodeau.
This season had a more optimistic start. The Wolves had a 7-2 record entering their first four-game trip toward the beginning of this losing streak — only for things all to fall apart. On that trip was the infamous Jordan Bell-untucked jersey fiasco at Oklahoma City, and it concluded with a loss at Phoenix, where the team held a meeting afterward in an attempt to refocus itself.
But then came three consecutive home losses.
It’s been Saunders’ task to make sure the Wolves aren’t getting too down on themselves.
“We did some things [Thursday] to try and lighten the mood a little bit, but also talk about the details of how we pull ourselves out of this,” Saunders said. “We should recognize that when you lose a number of games consecutively, it’s heavy. You can’t be beating guys down every chance you get.”
Their opponents have done a good enough job of that lately.