No lead is safe with these Timberwolves, particularly one as large as 17 points. They proved so again Saturday, for the fourth time this season during a 95-85 loss to Milwaukee at Target Center.
Afterward, interim head coach Sam Mitchell hoped his team’s latest collapse left players “embarrassed,” and starting point guard Ricky Rubio called for players too concerned about themselves rather than their team to be “really, really mad.”
Leading by that many late in the first quarter and trailing by 15 points in the fourth quarter, the Wolves lost for the sixth time in their past seven games overall against a Bucks team that had scored 120 points in each of their last two games but couldn’t make a shot to start Saturday’s game.
When the Bucks finally did nearly nine minutes into the game after missing their first 11 shots, they outscored the Wolves 29-19 in the second quarter and 23-15 in the fourth. In the second half, they scored at will around the basket, just as Andre Drummond did in Detroit’s home victory over them on Thursday.
“I know we are building something here, and we have to be patient. But that’s not the way,” Rubio said. “When you are up by 17, you want to win by 20 or 22. Instead of that, we’re acting like we’re too cool. It’s our fault, it’s nobody else, the 15 players in this locker room.”
On Saturday, Greg Monroe’s 19-point, 10-rebound performance revived the Bucks. So, too, did John Henson’s eight consecutive points during a 13-1 run that opened the fourth quarter and essentially won the game.
“This is our team, we’re young,” said Mitchell, who noted his team came apart when veterans Kevin Garnett and Tayshaun Prince weren’t on the floor. “They don’t know how to put the hammer down,” Mitchell said.
The Bucks shot 42.7 percent and still won easily against a Wolves team that has blown at least a 17-point lead to Denver and Milwaukee once and Portland twice.
“This league is built for men, and we weren’t men tonight,” Rubio said.
“We blew a big lead, and it cost us the game. I don’t know if we have more time. I know we’re young, but in this league there are not a lot of opportunities. The ones who make it are the ones who really want to do something. Tonight is a bad game and we need to be real, real mad.
“This is a team. At the end of the day, if you win games you’re going to be happy, no matter if you score 20, 10, five points. At the end of the day, you want to play [in the] playoffs, and it seems like we don’t care.”
Mitchell said he left players on the court in the fourth quarter hoping to impress upon them how much they need to care. Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine played the entire quarter. Karl-Anthony Towns played four minutes, then sat after a 4-for-17 shooting night that Mitchell called his worst defensive game.
“I left them out there for a reason,” Mitchell said. “I was hoping a little embarrassment set in with how they were playing and how Milwaukee was outworking them. Sometimes that’s got to be part of their medicine. Sometimes as coaches we try to save them too much. We don’t want their feelings to get hurt. We don’t want them to get embarrassed. Sometimes when you get butt kicked, you need to get embarrassed. That’s how you wake up.
“If they weren’t embarrassed, then we’ve got the wrong guys on our team. And I’ll say that, and you can quote me for saying that. If some guys weren’t embarrassed by how they played, we got the wrong guys in the locker room.”