WINNIPEG – If Wednesday's preseason-opening loss to Oklahoma City gave Timberwolves interim coach Sam Mitchell something to complain about, you would think Saturday's 114-105 loss to Chicago might advance the conversation.
But Mitchell called himself a man mostly pleased in things big and small, including the fact that his team gave up 34 points in Saturday's first quarter after surrendering 42 Wednesday.
Hey, baby steps …
"That's better," Mitchell said, "but still too many points."
The Wolves got lapped in that first quarter (34-16), gave up 16 three-pointers and fell behind by as many as 22 points before a three-pointer by Canada's own Andrew Wiggins pulled them within six with 4½ minutes left at sold-out MTS Centre.
"We did a lot of good things," Mitchell said. "They're trying to do the things we're asking them defensively, and at least they're thinking about it. So the next step is getting better at it. They will. We understand we have some young guys and it's going to take a while and we'll keep working. But I saw a lot more positives than negatives."
He saw rookie Tyus Jones come off the bench and score 16 points in the second quarter in a game without fellow point guards Ricky Rubio (quad strain) and Andre Miller (excused absence).
"I probably played him a little too long, but he was playing really well," Mitchell said of Jones, who had 18 points and nine assists in 25 minutes. "It was hard to get him out of the game."
He saw Wiggins — in his first of three consecutive games in Canada — produce some fourth-quarter energy. Wiggins scored seven of his nine points in that quarter after he was sent back in, even though Mitchell said he's trying to carefully manage Wiggins' preseason minutes.
"I just want to go and play hard and be competitive," Wiggins said, "and give the fans what they wanted."
Zach LaVine is 3-for-19 from the field in his first two games since Mitchell named him the starter and shooting guard of the future. He was 1-for-8 Saturday, making his last shot late in the game. LaVine played nearly 28 minutes. Kevin Martin played 12 off the bench.
"Zach right now is playing very tentative," Mitchell said. "We knew we were going to have to be patient. He's probably thinking too much, and that's probably natural for young guys. We have to get him to play more and stop thinking so much."
Rubio not worried
Rubio said he is not concerned about a strained quad that kept him out all last week. He attributes his soreness to training camp work after he was only cleared for live contact play in September following April ankle surgery. He likened it to a sore back that kept him out when he returned from a torn knee ligament and said his surgically repaired ankle on the other leg is fine.
"I want to play, but it is preseason," he said. "It's better to be cautious now. I'm not worried. I will be ready."
Back in the NBA
Former Wolves player and executive Fred Hoiberg is coaching the Bulls after five years at his alma mater Iowa State. He talked to Flip Saunders about the Wolves coaching job in both 2014 and '15, discussions he called "informal." He called the Bulls job an undeniable chance to coach a contender at the game's highest level.
"I talked to him a little bit, it never really got serious," said Hoiberg, who played for Saunders a decade ago. "I know he was excited about this group and as well he should be. It's a really good team he put together. It's an exciting team, an athletic team. I think they have a very bright future."
• Mitchell continued to experiment at power forward: Kevin Garnett played the first five minutes of each half. Damjan Rudez played 28 minutes over Nemanja Bjelica's 17 and Adreian Payne's zero.
• Miller is expected to rejoin the Wolves in Toronto for Monday's Canadian Thanksgiving game vs. the Raptors.
• Hoiberg on coaching against Mitchell while Garnett — who played with both — plays on: "It blows me away that he and I were in the same draft class because it feels like I played 100 years ago."
• Mitchell praised backup Gorgui Dieng's play for a second consecutive game.
• Saturday's crowd was announced as a sellout of 15,294, and about 500 people were turned away.