MEMPHIS – As Karl-Anthony Towns committed a second offensive foul in as many possessions late in the Timberwolves' 116-108 loss to the Grizzlies, Timberwolves coach Chris Finch took a water bottle he was drinking from and flung it under the bench.
A game there for the taking slipped through the Wolves' hands for the second time in three days Thursday night, this time because they didn't get any production from their bench, nor could the "Big Three" of Towns, Anthony Edwards and D'Angelo Russell carry the Wolves through the final minutes.
The Wolves had a 106-105 lead on a layup from Russell with 2 minutes, 45 seconds to play. They wouldn't score again until a meaningless Edwards layup gave him 30 for the night just before the buzzer.
Memphis scored the next 11 points after that Russell layup to win its 11th consecutive game.
To Finch, the Wolves played too slow in those final moments when Towns committed two offensive fouls on two consecutive possessions.
"We made the mistake last time when we were here," Finch said, referring to a 125-118 overtime loss on Nov. 8. "Played too slow, over-manipulated things. We just gotta play. We waited too long, got stuck on the clock and took some tough shots. When we did get some open looks, they didn't go in."
Grizzlies guard Ja Morant had 16 points, nine assists and eight rebounds while Desmond Bane scored 21. The Grizzlies also got 15 off the bench from Jon Konchar, who also had 17 rebounds, and 14 points from Brandon Clarke. Both of those totals were more than the entire output from the Wolves bench (13 points on 19% shooting).
Edwards had 25 of his 30 in the first half. Towns had a big second half leading to 25 points while Russell had 29. No other Wolves player finished in double figures while starting guard Patrick Beverley went 1-for-9.
"We're not really worried about that," Edwards said of his teammates' tough night. "Me last game, I had a bad game. Everybody have bad nights. I'm with them forever."
The Wolves also allowed 22 fast-break points to the Grizzlies and Memphis outrebounded them 56-46. Finch's message after the game spoke of the Wolves needing to shore up these little things, not rebounding, not fouling in the lane so much, to take the next step as a team.
"When you first start to play golf it's pretty easy to shave points off your handicap in a hurry," Finch said. "But when you want to go from a seven to a six rather, it's pretty hard to do and it's all about the attention to details."
There hasn't been enough attention in the past two games, and the Wolves let two potential wins turn into losses.
"I definitely think we're close," Russell said. "I think we're right there. I think we're right on it. But until we buy in to doing those little things, we won't find a way to win the game."
Nowell could return soon
The Wolves got some good news concerning the ankle injury guard Jaylen Nowell suffered Tuesday against New Orleans.
Nowell missed Thursday's game but coach Chris Finch was hopeful Nowell could return for Sunday's game against Golden State.
"It was not as bad as we had thought when it happened," Finch said.
Nowell has emerged in the rotation of late thanks to his scoring ability.