OKLAHOMA CITY – One of the points of pride for both Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns has been their durability.
On Thursday, both popped up on the Timberwolves’ injury report, Wiggins questionable because of a left thumb sprain and Towns probable because of right knee tendinopathy, a condition related to overuse.
Towns was able to give it a go Friday night against the Thunder while Wiggins missed his fourth game of the season. Wiggins said he injured his thumb during a drive in Wednesday’s loss at Dallas after he got tangled up with Mavericks center Dwight Powell.
Wiggins had the thumb wrapped at Friday’s shootaround and participated in that in a limited fashion.
Wiggins missed two games in November following the death of his grandmother and then a third because of an illness. He had missed only one game in the first four years of his career before missing nine games last season. The Thunder wasn’t all that upset to see Wiggins out — he has torched the Thunder in recent seasons, especially in Oklahoma City. The Wolves won twice at Chesapeake Energy Arena last season with Wiggins scoring 30 points in one victory and 40 in another, which was Ryan Saunders’ first game as coach after taking over for the fired Tom Thibodeau in January.
Towns missed two games this season when he was suspended for his involvement in a fight with 76ers center Joel Embiid.
The Wolves have picked up the slack on the defensive end of the floor of late, at least better than they had earlier in the season. Over their past five games, the Wolves have ranked 12th in defensive efficiency. Before that the Wolves rated 16th. So the defense is trending in the right direction, even if it’s not ultimately where the Wolves want it.
Saunders has said the Wolves have been switching more and the coaching staff has been able to implement different things system-wise on that end of the floor.
“They’re getting more and more comfortable with that,” Saunders said. “I’m always acknowledging there’s a lot of things we need to improve on. … But there has been a lot of improvement just based off these guys learning each other, being more comfortable communicating with each other as well.”
Heaving it from deep
Every so often, you might notice Robert Covington trailing in transition and the ball will swing to him a few feet behind the three-point line. In that situation, Covington hasn’t been afraid to let the bombs fly, even if he’s 4 or 5 feet beyond the line.
Wednesday, at least one of those shots went in, as he hit from 28 feet away in the fourth quarter to pull the Wolves within two. It’s no accident that Covington is firing away. He said he practices those shots on a regular basis.
“That’s what I work on, those type of shots,” Covington said. “And I’m very confident shooting them. My coaches and teammates are very confident in me shooting and they’re all in rhythm. I just feel like I got the shot, let it fly.”
Saunders joked that he is OK with those shots as long as they go in. But in general, Saunders doesn’t mind those looks because Covington does work on them.
“He’s usually pretty honest about if he takes one and he knows it’s a bad one, he’ll look over and I won’t have to say anything,” Saunders said. “There are certainly times where I’ll have to address it. But that’s one of the benefits of being a three-point specialist. You get a little bit of leeway with some of those too. … We tell them, ‘Hey, if you work on this shot, that’s a shot you’re able to take.’ Cov works on that shot.”