– Given his team’s repeated inability to protect double-digit leads, you’d think nights such as Tuesday at New Orleans would eat at Timberwolves interim head coach Sam Mitchell.

He promised after the Wolves lost another 17-point lead that it doesn’t, at least not much.

“It does because I want to win, but it doesn’t eat at me to the point where I get discouraged,” he said. “I’m encouraged. We keep giving ourselves a chance. That’s what you want. You’ve got to knock on the door before it opens. You’ve got to keep kicking at that wall until it collapses. Last year we didn’t even know how to knock on the door.”

The Wolves led by at least 17 points in nine of their first 43 games before they played Wednesday at Dallas. They were 4-5 in those games. Mitchell said he’s heard such statistics mentioned to him often.

“That’s OK,” Mitchell said. “Last year, we never had a lead. Where was the criticism then? I don’t listen to that stuff. That’s what young teams do: Instead of finding ways to win, they find ways to lose. I love the fact that we put ourselves in position and give ourselves a chance to win. I love the fact that we’re able to get leads. As we grow and get better and mature, we’re going to learn how to close people out.”

No big ‘D’ in Dallas

While the Wolves played without Kevin Garnett on Wednesday on the second night of back-to-back games, the Mavericks went without star Dirk Nowitzki, who missed the game because of swelling in his knee. They also played without guard Raymond Felton.

“Well, let’s see: One guy has scored 29,000 points, including 31 the other night,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “It certainly presents a challenge, no doubt about that.”

Upon further review …

The Wolves made many mistakes in losing that 17-point lead Tuesday. One of the most glaring was careless inbounds pass that New Orleans stole and scored at the third-quarter buzzer.

Point guard Zach LaVine made the pass, but Mitchell said the power forward — rookie Nemanja Bjelica, in this case — is responsible for putting the ball in play.

“KG’s been taking it out for 20 years,” Mitchell said. “If it’s good enough for Kevin Garnett to do it for 20 years, it’s good enough for whoever’s in the game at the ‘4’ to do it.”


• While Garnett rested, center Nikola Pekovic played Wednesday after he rested Tuesday. Pekovic and Karl-Anthony Towns started side-by-side against a modified Mavericks lineup in which Charlie Villanueva subbed for Nowitzki.

• Forbes magazine’s new NBA franchise evaluations list the Timberwolves at 27th, worth an estimated $720 million. That’s 15 percent more than a season ago.

New York is No. 1, valued at $3 billion.