SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – The NBA will likely take Thursday’s matchup between the Timberwolves and Kings, put in a vault and just let it collect dust for generations upon generations, never to see the light of day again.
Two teams with losing records, each with their best players out because of injuries; the Kings losing De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley during the game, the Wolves without Karl-Anthony Towns and Jake Layman entering the night.
Both teams couldn’t hit from the outside. Neither team could even break 20 in the fourth quarter and the end-of-game execution for both teams was lacking, to say the least.
Nobody would complain if the NBA shot evidence of this game into the sun to erase any memory of it.
Except it will likely live a while in the minds of this Wolves team, who finally ended an 11-game losing streak that lasted almost a month with an ugly, pull-your-hair-out but ultimately celebratory 105-104 double overtime victory over the Kings.
Of course it wasn’t going to come easy for the Wolves.
“It’s only right, right?” Jeff Teague said. “We had to scratch and claw for one. It made us a better team I think going through this.”
The streak had to end this way. Not with an easy 10- or 15-point win, but in double overtime with Buddy Hield missing an open look at the buzzer.
“Relief,” said Robert Covington as he let out a long exhale, “Relief finally.”
Added Andrew Wiggins: “All you could do is watch. And it missed, thank God.”
Gorgui Dieng, who had 21 points to go with 15 rebounds, didn’t even realize the game was over. He thought Hield’s miss meant another overtime.
“I didn’t know the game was over,” Dieng said through laughter. “I thought the game was tied, I swear. I was like, ‘... We’re going to a third overtime. Then I saw everybody jumping from the bench and so I jumped.”
Anybody who watched the game was jumping that it was over. Both teams shot just 35% and were nearly as bad from three-point range (22% for the Wolves, 23% for Sacramento). Wiggins had 18 points to go with 10 rebounds and seven assists, but he was only four of 19.
“We needed this game bad,” Wiggins said. “Hopefully we ended the little slump. We can just go up from here.”
Teague (15 points) was five of 17. Hield (17 points) was six of 20. Bogdan Bogdanovich (19 points), who missed a chance to win at the end of the first overtime, went 8-for-28.
It all doesn’t matter to the Wolves. Not when you’ve suffered through a brutal stretch when it seemed nothing would go your way. Coach Ryan Saunders has said the team never got too down on itself despite the weight of the losing streak. They weren’t about to get overly emotional now that it was finally over.
"There were more smiles, more laughing than in previous weeks,” Saunders said. “For the most part, it was very similar in terms of business as usual.”
With the score tied 97-97, the Wolves scored eight of the first 10 points in the second overtime and held on after Hield scored the final five points to make it a one-point game. The Wolves had also scored the first five points of the first extra session only to relinquish the lead and came up with empty offensive possessions in the final minute. They also missed some open looks at the end of regulation.
But the Wolves hung their heads on how they played defensively, banding together after this streak featured so much bad defense to get them into this funk.
“We’re going to do it through grit and through our determination,” Saunders said. “I give that locker room a lot of credit. We talked about it after this win, not getting too high and not getting too low.”
That was the mood afterward. No big celebrations, just a general sense of relief that the streak was finally over. A burden lifted, and now they can carry on from here.
“It helped us because we went through this situation,” Teague said. “We won some games early, had some things going well. Went through a bad situation and trying to crawl out of it and got a win. We’ve been through both. We’ve seen what it looked like to be up and what it looked like to be down. Just try to keep even keel and everything will be all right.”
For the first time in nearly a month, things were finally all right for the Wolves.