INDIANAPOLIS – A backcut that goes for a layup. Andrew Wiggins missing a pair of free throws down the stretch. A missed rebound that results in a second shot for the opposition — and that shot ends up being a made three-pointer.
The Timberwolves have lost too many close games on the road this season, and they followed one heart-wrenching loss on Wednesday at Atlanta with another Thursday, a 122-115 loss to the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
If you were watching the Wolves for the first time this season, you saw them pull out a greatest hits medley of the various ways they have lost close games this season.
The Pacers shot 16-for-27 (59 percent) from three-point range, and down the stretch the Wolves couldn’t execute defensively. Because of that they let a 42-point, 17-rebound performance from Karl-Anthony Towns go to waste while allowing Pacers forward Bojan Bogdanovic to slice and dice them all over the floor.
“It was crazy,” Wolves forward Taj Gibson said. “Bogdanovic, I didn’t know he had 35 at one point. It was such a quiet 35.”
So quiet, Gibson didn’t realize Bogdanovic actually had 37. It was Bogdanovic who beat Wiggins on a backdoor cut with 3:57 to play that gave Indiana a 109-107 lead. Following two missed free throws from Wiggins, similar to a home loss in December to Atlanta, Bogdanovic hit a three after Darren Collison grabbed an offensive rebound. The Wolves never got within one possession after that.
“Getting multiple stops in a row. That’s the key and it’s different from last year,” Gibson said. “This year, it’s getting stops late in games, count on your defense because late in the game, it’s tough. … Momentum can always change, but it comes down to, you’ve got to count on your defense, corral the ball, rebound the ball.”
The problems weren’t all defensive Thursday. The Wolves shot only 23-for-34 from the free-throw line and committed 19 turnovers that turned into 28 Indiana points.
Losing to a quality Pacers team didn’t make it go down any smoother, especially when Towns had the type of dominating night that he did.
“It’s rough. It’s not easy to win in the NBA,” said Towns, who scored 23 points in the first quarter, on 8-for-14 shooting. “We didn’t do the things we needed to do and execute the way we needed to at the end.”
You could take Towns’ words and apply them to almost every other close road loss the Wolves have had. Wiggins’ rough night (4-for-14 shooting in 38 minutes) likely didn’t help his standing with a fan base that wants more in games like this from a player on a maximum contract.
“I don’t let it bother me,” Wiggins said. “I think next game I can make it better. I don’t worry about it.”
For those hoping interim coach Ryan Saunders uses the stick more than the carrot with Wiggins, keep hoping.
“Being in this position, I’m going to stay true to myself,” Saunders said. “With that I’m going to continue to encourage Andrew. But also with everything, you want to encourage but also guide in a positive way.”
It’s tough for the Wolves to stay positive when so many of these games don’t break their way, especially when the cause is within their control.
“I’m just looking forward to getting a solid, good road win,” Gibson said.
Added Towns: “I’m hungry for wins. We need wins. We need a lot of them and we need them fast.”