Groundhog Day was earlier this month, but the Timberwolves were stuck in their own version of the Bill Murray classic Monday.
They woke up Saturday and allowed 43 points to the Thunder in the first quarter. They woke up 48 hours later and allowed 43 points to the Mavericks in the first.
They stormed back from a 20-plus halftime deficit to make things interesting in Oklahoma City before losing, and in a frustrating similarity akin to waking up in the same rural Pennsylvania town, the Wolves couldn't quite make it all the way back in a 127-122 loss to the Mavericks at American Airlines Arena.
It led to another strong speech from coach Ryan Saunders that "lit a fire" under the Wolves, according to guard Jaylen Nowell, and it once again left Saunders using familiar terms from Saturday to assess the Wolves play. The first quarter wasn't "an acceptable start" but Saunders had plenty of praise for the job the team did late in the game as they cut a 25-point Dallas lead down to three after they lost D'Angelo Russell in the first quarter because of left leg soreness.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of those guys for those 36 [minutes]," Saunders said. "Character wins don't get you anything in this league, but it does signify growth."
Malik Beasley was the main reason the comeback happened as he went bonkers in the fourth quarter to score 22 of his game-high 30 points in the final 8 minutes, 39 seconds as the Wolves tried in desperation to come all the way back.
"He was just able to block everything out and get us going," said Nowell, who had 18 points off the bench. "After every shot he made, he turned over the bench and was like, 'Yo, turn up, turn up.' He brings a different, different energy that we definitely need."
Or as Anthony Edwards put it: "He can shoot the blood out of the ball."
A Beasley putback made the score 123-120 with 50.8 seconds remaining as the Wolves rattled off 10 straight points, but Josh Richardson's 10-foot jumper on Dallas' next possession clinched a game that wasn't in doubt most of the night until Beasley's tear late.
Kristaps Porzingis set the tone early for Dallas at both ends, as he scored 15 of his 27 points in the furious first for the Mavericks to go with 13 rebounds and six blocks. Dallas shot 65% in the first quarter and led 43-22. Luka Doncic had 26.
"We're the youngest team in the league so sometimes we come out and we're trying to feel our way into the game so sometimes when we do that, especially against good teams like Dallas, it's not really forgiven," Nowell said.
The first quarter was also the only playing time Russell had on the night. He played just six minutes, scored six points and did not come back. There was no immediate word about the severity of the injury. Russell had been playing through a right quad contusion, so Russell's injury Monday would indicate a potential additional injury to his other leg.
"He told me he had leg soreness, he was going to get worked on. I was told a couple minutes later that he's not going back," Saunders said. "I don't have any more information than that right now."
The Star Tribune did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews after the game.