LOS ANGELES – In the aftermath of Friday’s heartbreaking loss at Oklahoma City, the Timberwolves had to undertake some self-evaluation.
Yes, they weren’t happy with the delay of game call on Jordan Bell for an untucked jersey, a call that resulted in a technical for the Thunder before Dennis Schroder’s game-tying layup at the end of regulation.
But as the team reviewed film before Sunday’s game against the Lakers, coach Ryan Saunders said he focused on several areas the Wolves could have been better outside of that call — and perhaps they would have won the game regardless.
“There were five instances in the last 10 seconds of regulation that we could’ve controlled as a group that if we win one of those, we’re coming in here with a victory,” Saunders said Sunday. “So, you got to learn from that. I feel good about our team. Everybody is always receptive after losses, and there’s a fight in our guys.”
That was the focus for the Wolves over the past 48 hours — how to learn from what happened Friday. Outside of the delay of game call, there was a late turnover, Bell missed a pair of free throws, Karl Anthony Towns missed the front end of his set of free throws and then made the second when he was trying to miss. A miss would’ve caused Oklahoma City, which was out of timeouts, to scramble for a final shot down one. And the Wolves could have better defended Steven Adams’ length-of-the-court pass to Schroder. All that was under review.
“We saw where we could’ve done better,” guard Josh Okogie said. “We’ll make adjustments for next time a situation like that occurs.”
Perhaps a jarring loss in a situation like that will cause the team to sit up and pay more attention to what it needs to do in those situation more so than if they had escaped with a win. At least that’s how Saunders was thinking as the anger from Friday night subsided.
“We do have a young team … there are still situations we have to learn from,” Saunders said. “Unfortunately, that one hurt. We’ve talked about it as a group and those games should hurt. Sometimes with a young group, if you sneak out of there with a victory — we would’ve loved that — but you might lose sight on the details.
“What that did was allowed us to focus more on the details, and it made it easier for us as coaches to point those details out and show how important they really are.”
Both Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague entered Sunday as questionable, and Saunders deemed them game-time decisions. Wiggins missed Friday’s game because of a left thumb sprain, but he was able to make it back Sunday. Teague was suffering from left ankle soreness and was soaking his ankle in a big water tub before the game. Teague didn’t start coming off his best game of the season when he scored 32 points against the Thunder but he was available. Towns, who came in as probable because of right knee soreness, was able to play again.
LeBron still king
Saunders said he noticed that Lakers forward LeBron James seems to add to his game every year. This year, James is distributing at a level he hasn’t in previous seasons. James leads the league in assists at 10.7 per game.
“You have to give him so much credit for what he’s able to do on the court,” Saunders said. “When you’re a guy who’s that dominant with the basketball where you can probably get a good shot off most possessions, for him to be as unselfish as he is, it’s just a huge credit to him and what he’s developed into in this league.”