SAN ANTONIO – In another hushed Timberwolves road locker room following their 124-98 destruction at the hands of the Spurs on Friday night, Andrew Wiggins offered a tongue-in-cheek solution to cure the team’s 0-12 road record against Western Conference opponents.
“Maybe just try to pretend we’re at home,” Wiggins said.
Well, Friday resembled the last time the Wolves were at home in one way — an opponent fired at will from three-point range and seemed to hit them when it hurt the most.
After the Pistons hit 20 three-pointers in an overtime victory at Target Center on Wednesday, the Spurs, who entered the contest shooting the fewest threes per game in the NBA (23.8), took that game plan and maximized it in hitting a lethal 19 of 33 from three-point range.
Marco Belinelli hit five for 17 points, Davis Bertans hit five for 15 while Bryn Forbes hit three on his way to a game-high 22 in a matchup that saw the Spurs, winners of seven of their past eight games, go up by 24 in the second quarter. To add injury to insult, Derrick Rose did not play in the second half because of a left ankle injury, the same malady plaguing starting point guard Jeff Teague, and is day-to-day, coach Tom Thibodeau said.
The same could be said for the Wolves’ fledgling defense, which has been downgraded from probable to show up after the Jimmy Butler trade to a day-to-day work in progress.
“We had no intensity,” Thibodeau said.
That was true, forward Robert Covington said, but there were also things the Wolves need to do better, things they were doing when Covington and Dario Saric first arrived from Philadelphia and the Wolves had one of the best defenses in the league for about a dozen games. Those games that seem so long ago now that the Wolves have lost six of their past seven. The Wolves needed to close out on shooters better to run them off the three-point line. That ties into the lack of intensity. If the intensity is there, the closeouts are there.
“We have to be more engaged, more aware of game plan and whatnot,” Covington said. “Giving up  threes in two games, it’s not ideal. … I think it’s just our attention to detail. It’s kind of slipped a little bit. Our intensity, that edge just about ourselves fell off a little bit. We have to get that back.”
The Wolves cut the lead to 12 in one of the few signs of life they displayed, but the trio of Belinelli, Bertans and Forbes hits three-pointers in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter to put the Spurs back up 24 and send the Wolves off to Oklahoma City in fitting fashion. Wiggins finished with a team-high 15, on 3-for-11 shooting. Rose scored only four points on 1-for-8 shooting and took the rest of the night off after halftime, saying his ankle was “really sore.”
“I’ll take it as a case of me not really listening to my body,” Rose said. “I felt like I just overlooked it. It was sore all night. I didn’t even do shootaround, just trying to rest it and I think I did a bad job of just listening to my body.”
And the Wolves need to a better job of listening to themselves when it comes to playing defense.
“We can’t sit up here and do the same things and expect a different outcome,” Covington said.