And so, Wednesday night at Target Center, it continued.
In front of a crowd limited by both consistent losing and a nasty cold snap — the announced crowd was 10,547 — the Timberwolves did what they’ve done for nearly a full month now.
Lose. For the 13th time in a row.
This time it was close in a 113-111 defeat. So close. This time the Wolves led for much of the game, and even a couple of times late. This time Andrew Wiggins had a chance to cap off a strong game with a game-winning three-pointer, only to have it go off the back rim at the buzzer.
“I thought it was in,” said Wiggins, who scored 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting.
It wasn’t. And so the losing streak continues. The Wolves (5-29) lost to a Phoenix team that has won nine of its past 11.
Phoenix (22-16) got 25 points from Goran Dragic, 21 from Gerald Green, and 17 from both Isaiah Thomas and Eric Bledsoe.
The Wolves? That 13-game streak is tied for the fourth-longest in team history, within five of the team’s all-time streak, which began late in the 2010-11 season and bled into December of the following season.
Wednesday they lost despite double-doubles from Mo Williams (23 points and 11 assists) and Anthony Bennett (14 points and 10 rebounds), despite 25 points from Wiggins, 13 from Thad Young, 12 from Shabazz Muhammad.
The Wolves lost despite leading by as many as 13 in the second half, by seven entering the fourth quarter.
“They turned it up in the fourth quarter,” said Wolves coach Flip Saunders of the Suns, who scored 42 points in the final 12 minutes. “Their guards put a lot of pressure on you.”
The Suns’ three-guard attack started slowly and finished strong. With his team down 78-71 to start the fourth quarter, Green, the former Wolves player, scored 15 points in the opening minutes of the fourth. His two free throws with 8:22 left gave Phoenix an 86-82 lead.
The Wolves didn’t give up. Over the final eight minutes of the quarter there were three ties and six lead changes.
The Wolves took the lead back for the last time on Wiggins’ two free throws with 1:50 left.
But the Suns were clicking now. Thomas scored on a runner, then his steal led to Markieff Morris’ jumper. Coming out of a timeout, Chase Budinger’s pass was intercepted by Bledsoe, who drove for a dunk with 57.5 seconds left and a five-point Phoenix lead.
The Wolves weren’t done yet. Zach LaVine hit two free throws to make it a one-point game with 6.2 seconds left. At the other end Thomas made one of two free throws with 5.5 seconds to play. Young grabbed the rebound of the miss, got the ball to Budinger, who fed Wiggins for the final shot.
But it didn’t go.
And now the Wolves play five of the next six games on the road. So the question is, when will the streak end?
Saunders admitted that this one hurt.
“It sucks the energy out of you,” he said. “Is it fun to come back to work the next day when you’ve gone through that?”
Afterward, limping after turning his right ankle late, Williams called this just another loss.
“They’re all hard,” he said. “They all hurt.”
Wiggins, meanwhile, already was looking ahead: “You have to think about what you did well, what you can do better.”