SAN ANTONIO – The Timberwolves were down 17 in the second quarter to the Eastern Conference-leading Heat, Karl-Anthony Towns was in foul trouble and they had just blown a double-digit lead the night before to the rebuilding Magic.
Last season and in years past, the Wolves lose Saturday's game. Maybe they make some sort of charge, but they never string enough stops together to pose a serious threat to the Heat.
That team is gone.
"I said to the guys on the bench, let's just get to the halftime where we can regroup because I think the solutions are there to be seen," coach Chris Finch said.
The Wolves got to halftime down 12, regrouped and came out with one of their best defensive halves of basketball on the season — all without two of their prime defenders in Jarred Vanderbilt and Patrick Beverley, who were both out with injuries.
They gave up only 37 points to Miami in the second half and got enough offense in a game where none of their big three of Towns, Anthony Edwards and D'Angelo Russell scored more than 15 points.
"We've been resilient when we've had off performances," Finch said. "Really proud of the guys. We challenged them hard [Saturday] morning. They responded. They owned [Friday] night. They wanted to be better and they knew they had to be better."
Towns said Finch's film session was a testy one, with the coach letting the team have it after laying a rancid egg in the fourth quarter of Friday's loss, which ended a six-game winning streak.
But Finch wasn't above looking himself in the mirror as well. He said he regretted not playing Jaylen Nowell more in Orlando, especially as the Wolves were struggling to score in the second half and their main facilitator off the bench, point guard Jordan McLaughlin, was out because of groin tightness.
"I was mad at myself," Finch said. "I didn't play Jaylen enough, especially for a game that needed an [isolation] scorer. That was a huge mistake. I couldn't get it off my mind all day. I was not going to let it happen again."
Nowell finished with a team-high 16 points Saturday, 10 coming in the second quarter when the Wolves struggled to get anything going with Towns tethered to the bench with three fouls.
"He was huge," Finch said. "Kept us really in the game. We got down big, but in the first half in particular he kept us in the game within striking distance while we were trying to get to the halftime."
Out of that halftime, the Wolves showed their resiliency, a trait they are proud to have acquired this season after so many nights like Saturday would have turned to blowouts in recent seasons.
"Last season it was tough. If we lost it'd become a losing streak," guard Malik Beasley said. "Now we're better than that. We wanted to make sure we come out with a new winning streak."
Edwards said Wednesday he wanted to come back from his left knee soreness just so he could be available and rust-free for Saturday's game against Miami. Even though Jimmy Butler's absence took away some of the matchup's drama, Edwards still thought it was one of the Wolves' best victories of the season. It was hard to disagree.
"I just think this win is super huge," Edwards said. "For us to come off a terrible loss, be down 12 going into halftime, come out and just eat at the lead and then take the lead going into the fourth — I think it was just like, perfect."