You could see the frustration on the Timberwolves’ faces. You could hear it in the boos of the fans at Target Center. You might think the Wolves were playing 8-on-5 in their 116-113 loss to the Spurs, but interim coach Ryan Saunders wasn’t letting the Wolves blame officials for the defeat.
“We’re a no excuse team,” Saunders said.
And none of the Wolves did that after the game. Karl-Anthony Towns declined to talk about the referees for fear that he would get fined and when asked what he thought of the officials, Jeff Teague just said: “[The Spurs] played hard. They played well. Had some guys make some tough shots.”
There were an unusually high number of fouls called on both sides. Entering the night, the Spurs had the league low for fouls per game at 18.5. The Wolves had the seventh fewest at 20.2. They combined for 53 on Friday. The Wolves shot more free throws than the Spurs – 38 to 29.
The Wolves had a chance to tie it before time ran out, but Derrick Rose’s 3-point attempt missed the rim completely. Saunders said the Wolves had a few options off of that side out-of-bounds play.
“We knew they were going to protect the 3-point line,” Saunders said. “We were comfortable with Derrick.”
A few possessions prior, Andrew Wiggins committed a turnover he’d like to have back when he made a bad pass that resulted in a dunk for Marco Belinelli. That dunk put the Spurs up five with 1:56 to play.
Wiggins said he was initially going to take a shot then spotted an open teammate, but made a pass.
“I just messed up,” he said. “That’s it.”
A new lineup
With Towns and Gorgui Dieng in foul trouble and Tyus Jones out because of a left ankle sprain, Ryan Saunders turned to an unusual lineup. He had Dario Saric and Taj Gibson on the floor together – normally those two rotate at the power forward position – with Anthony Tolliver, Rose and Jerryd Bayless. The unit held their own in the second quarter until Towns re-entered the game with the Wolves ahead 38-34.
The Wolves had deployed 673 different lineup combinations this season, according to basketballreference.com, but that five-man combination had never been on the floor before for the Wolves.
-- Jeff Day contributed to this report