Seventeen missed free throws, a mighty missed slam dunk, a flubbed layup and a botched inbounds play at the worst time, there were too many ways to count the Timberwolves’ errors late in Friday’s troubling 123-120 overtime loss to Atlanta at Target Center.
But canvas the Wolves locker room afterward and to a man, it was the team’s start and not its finish that cost them dearly.
On a night when star forward Andrew Wiggins forgot his jersey before that start, the Wolves allowed the young, wild Hawks 71 first-half points, a 22-point, second-quarter lead and at one point better than 69 percent shooting.
After the Wolves won consecutive road games at Oklahoma City and Chicago on Sunday and Wednesday, Karl-Anthony Towns explained it best as something missing from the start.
Other than Wiggins’ jersey, of course.
“An edge, we didn’t play with no edge,” he said. “We came in at halftime realizing we were getting our butts kicked. We came out in the second half with the edge we should have played the whole 48 [minutes] with. We dug ourselves a tremendous hole.”
They did so shortly after Wiggins went to pull off his warmup top following the national anthem.
“I went to take it off and there was nothing else there,” he said. “I must have forgot. Usually, I put it on when I go warm up. I must have forgot it.”
When asked when he realized Wiggins didn’t have a jersey, Towns said, “We all didn’t know. That’s things we’ll address later. You have to be ready.”
The Wolves weren’t ready Friday, not by a long shot, for whatever reasons.
From trailing 56-34 midway through the second quarter, the Wolves outscored Atlanta 30-18 in the third quarter, led by nine points with eight minutes left and by four points in the fourth quarter’s final 30 seconds. They still lost after the Hawks forced overtime by scoring twice in three seconds as the fourth-quarter clocked ticked away.
They did so after Wolves veteran Robert Covington missed a vicious slam dunk late in the fourth quarter and then had an open layup slip from his hand in overtime.
“Those are big plays,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said.
They did so after Atlanta’s Kent Bazemore stole Dario Saric’s sideline inbounds pass intended for Towns and dunked it at the other end to tie the score at 112 with 17 seconds left in regulation.
In overtime alone, the Wolves clanked four of those 17 missed free throws, three of them by Wiggins in the final 50 seconds. He missed two consecutively with his team trailing by a point with 49.3 seconds left, then missed one of two trailing by two points with 4.5 seconds left.
Add them all up and Wiggins went 5-for-12 on free throws, Towns went 10-for-15 and Covington 3-for-5. That’s 14 of their 17 misses right there.
“I don’t know how many we missed amongst us,” Covington said. “Honestly, that’s the game right there.”
Fans booed Wiggins. He said “that’s fans for you” when he observed the team has some good fans and some bad ones after it lost to a Hawks team that has won just 10 games but four of its past five.
“It’s not him,” Towns said. “Whatever he missed, I missed five, too. It’s all our faults. You hit a free throw here or there, you put the game away.”