The Timberwolves’ quiet locker room Wednesday night was no surprise. The Wolves built a 14-point lead, only to lose 129-123 in overtime thanks to Detroit’s three-point bombardment in a 40-26 fourth quarter.
There was frustration over the team’s inability to slow down Blake Griffin and Reggie Bullock.
But maybe there was also the knowledge that, given the way the Wolves have fared on the road this season, losing games at Target Center could be costly.
Minnesota, 12-5 at home, is 2-12 on the road. That includes an 0-11 mark on the road against Western Conference foes. And that’s after going a respectable 13-13 on the road vs. the rugged West last season.
And now, at 14-17, the Wolves are about to play six of their next seven on the road, starting Friday in San Antonio — a city where the Wolves have lost 10 consecutive games and 50 times in team history.
Things need to change quickly for Minnesota to stay in playoff contention.
“Absolutely, absolutely,” forward Robert Covington said after the loss to the Pistons. It was late, but his plan was to welcome some friends and family who were in town, then head straight to watch film to see how Detroit was able to hit nine of 13 three-pointers in the fourth quarter.
“We have got to get these next few,” Covington said. “We don’t want to fall out of that race. We have to refocus and lock in. I’ll watch the game [late Wednesday night], see the mistakes we had.”
After San Antonio, the Wolves will play at Oklahoma City, which was second in the Western Conference through Wednesday’s play and 12-3 at home. Then there is a trip to Chicago before a return home to face Atlanta. Then it’s back on the road at Miami, New Orleans and Boston.
Given how the Wolves played in their most recent road game — a 107-99 loss at lowly Phoenix — none of these games will be easy.
The Wolves’ .143 road winning percentage is 27th in the NBA. Their defensive rating, a respectable 105.2 at home (ninth best in the league), is 114.7 on the road (27th). The Wolves’ net rating of minus-7.3 on the road is 23rd in the league.
The Wolves lost five in a row on the road just before the trade that sent Jimmy Butler to Philadelphia for Covington, Dario Saric and Jerryd Bayless.
The more recent 0-4 trip out west came with Covington limited because of knee soreness, which knocked him out of a game at Portland on Dec. 9. Covington seems to be back in rhythm and healthy. Now the Wolves will see if that equates to getting a healthier record away from Target Center.
“The mind-set has to be we have to start playing better on the road,” Saric said. “Do what the coach asks. That’s the only way you can play. It’s hard to win in the NBA on the road. You need to be ready.”
After the current stretch of six of seven road games, the Wolves will return to play six of their next eight at home. So even a respectable showing on the road might put the team in position to make a midseason move up the standings.
“It’s going to be challenging,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “To win on the road, you have to bring toughness. You have to bring defense. You have to play a 48-minute game. That’s where we have to grow.”