Saturday was a night for early exits during and after the Timberwolves' 135-128 loss.
First, Rudy Gobert picked up a flagrant foul two and was ejected for tripping the Thunder's Kenrich Williams during the second quarter. That began a long night of the Wolves griping to the officials. They picked up five overall, with D'Angelo Russell joining Gobert in getting tossed with under a minute to play.
Then few Wolves players stuck around to talk about their night afterward with many either leaving before the media arrived or declining to speak at all.
There are times it seems the Wolves play with no emotion, then there are nights they play with the wrong emotion. Saturday was the latter.
"We're going to have to manage it," point guard Jordan McLaughlin said in an empty locker room. "A tech every now and then is good. It gets the crowd going, gets us going. But when we have as many as we had tonight, that's something that we can control ... and [need to] find an even keel with that."
There wasn't much good to talk about in a game the Wolves could have won without Karl-Anthony Towns. The team that has tried to prove it can win in the NBA with two centers had to try to win without both of them. Oklahoma City closed with a 38-27 fourth as the Wolves committed 23 turnovers, which they couldn't pin on the officials.
Despite a 44-point third quarter, the Wolves' defense and execution failed them in the fourth, while their emotions ran over at the officiating throughout. Four of their technicals came in the second half as Jaylen Nowell, Jaden McDaniels, Kyle Anderson, Anthony Edwards and Russell all picked up one.
"That's something that we got to work on as a team," center Naz Reid said. "Our veteran guys, they know better. They know they made mistakes, and they know that might've cost us moments in the game. We're not blaming anybody. It is what it is. We just got to be better."
That starts with Gobert (six points, four rebounds), who was tossed with 9 mintues, 22 seconds remaining in the second quarter. After he fell down with Oklahoma City's Kenrich Williams, Gobert tripped Williams as the two were attempting to get up. Officials ruled that Gobert's move was intentional and excessive and then kicked him out of the game. The two then got into a scuffle and Williams picked up a technical.
The Wolves trailed much of the first half with and without Gobert. They came out with plenty of fire in the third to take a 99-92 lead late, but they couldn't hold it as their defense lacked Gobert's steady inside presence.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 33 points and six assists for Oklahoma City, which got what it wanted in the paint all night. The Thunder scored 66 paint points. The Wolves scored 68 of their own, but the Thunder hit 42% from three-point range while the Wolves were at 33.
"One of the challenges tonight was to find a group that you had enough balance out there offensively and defensively," coach Chris Finch said. "... I probably could've shaken up the defenses a little bit better."
Russell led the Wolves with 27 while Edwards had 26. Jaylen Nowell pitched in 21 off the bench while Naz Reid played through multiple hard falls and what he said was a sinus infection to have 13 points and a career-high 18 rebounds. Only Kevin Love has had more rebounds in a Wolves game off the bench.
The turnovers canceled out whatever good the Wolves did on offense.
"We're playing sloppy in some stints of the game," Reid said. "Sometimes we might have bonehead turnovers that we're better than. Things like that cost us the game. We just got to be better moving forward."
Officials are going to have bad nights. How the Wolves react to those nights can change.
"The frustrations boiled over," Finch said. "It was not the most mature effort by us. We needed a way more mature effort than that."