With the possible exception of coach Ryan Saunders, none of the Timberwolves was looking for a silver lining in Sunday’s 100-98 overtime loss to the Nuggets.
But look hard. A lineup that included Treveon Graham, Josh Okogie and Robert Covington — along with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins — spent the fourth quarter playing some of the best defense fans at Target Center have seen in a while.
The 7-2 Nuggets, second in the Western Conference, were held to 5-for-17 shooting and induced into 10 turnovers, which resulted in 11 Wolves points.
The Nuggets were up 90-74 with 6:43 left in regulation. From then until early in overtime, that Wolves lineup held the Nuggets scoreless through 16 consecutive possessions as Minnesota clawed back into the game.
“I think our defensive intensity turned up a notch,” Saunders said. “We need that for the full 48 [minutes]. Guys did a number of things, in terms of playing without fouling, playing where we wanted to keep [Nikola] Jokic away from being a playmaker with his pick-and-rolls. So we did a lot of good things.”
Sharing Ski-U-Mah fever
As a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Saunders has always been a big-time Gophers fan.
He also has developed a relationship with Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck. The two text often and support each other.
Saunders wore a maroon suit during the Wolves’ victory over Golden State on Friday, and Fleck reportedly slipped on a Timberwolves sweatshirt after his team upset Penn State on Saturday and he had finished his postgame media duties.
Call it a mutual admiration society. In fact, Fleck gave Saunders a shout-out for the maroon suit.
“He’s my guy, so I was pumped about the win,” Saunders said. “That’s a heck of a win.”
The Wolves practiced Saturday but got done early enough for Saunders to see the end of the Gophers’ 31-26 victory.
• Injury update: Starting point guard Jeff Teague missed his third consecutive game because of an illness. Also missing the game was his backup, Shabazz Napier, who is dealing with a hamstring injury, and Jordan Bell (shoulder). Saunders said the plan was for Teague — who also has stitches that need to heal — to travel with the team to Detroit, and there is a chance he could play against the Pistons on Monday.
• The Wolves used a combination of rookie Jarrett Culver, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan McLaughlin as the main ballhandler, with mixed results. Culver, though, had his moments. Overall he played 30½ minutes and scored 10 points with three rebounds and three assists. “I feel he played a nice floor game,” Saunders said. “He made some nice reads. I thought he was able to get to the basket.”