CHARLOTTE, N.C. – On any other night previously this season, the Timberwolves probably would have crumbled if had they given up five points in one second late in a game, as they allowed during Saturday’s 113-105 victory at Denver.
Leading 108-103 with less than two minutes left, they fouled Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler on a prayer of a three-pointer that he made. Sent to the free-throw line for a possible four-point play with 1:41 left, Chandler missed the foul shot, but Kenneth Faried tipped in the rebound.
Suddenly, the Wolves led by just three, and if everybody back home could have seen the game on television, they might have said, “Here we go again.”
Except this time, the Wolves didn’t go there. They won for the second time in three games, thanks in good measure to rookie Andrew Wiggins’ career-high 31 points and Robbie Hummel’s career night with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
“When that happened, no one put their head down,” Wolves coach Flip Saunders said. “Two or three weeks ago we would have done that. They just said, ‘We’re still in good shape.’ … We reacted to pressure and we made shots.”
Veteran guard Mo Williams specifically reacted, repelling Denver’s comeback attempt by making consecutive jump shots that pushed the lead back to seven points.
The Wolves didn’t need Williams to score a franchise-record 52 points like he did in Tuesday’s victory at Indiana, but when they when they needed him Saturday in Denver, well, they needed him.
“Mo really calmed us down and made huge shots,” said Hummel, who started for Chase Budinger at small forward Saturday and played a career-high 42 minutes. “He’s a good player who has been playing a long time in this league. There’s a reason for that. He can score the ball.”
Williams scored a mere 13 points, but those four points late in the game saved his team.
“It’s natural for me,” Williams said. “I said in preseason, I’m not afraid to miss those shots.”
One more step …
The Wolves upgraded guard Kevin Martin’s condition on Sunday from doubtful to questionable, which is another sign that his return could come Monday at Charlotte.
Martin called Thursday’s practice in Phoenix something of a turning point in his recovery from November wrist surgery and said he possibly could play by the end of the team’s current road trip. That four-game trip ends Monday.
Center Miroslav Raduljica’s 10-day contract signed Jan. 8 expired after Saturday’s game, which means the Wolves will sign him to another 10-day contract, sign him for the rest of the season or let him go and look elsewhere before Monday’s game. One of the first two options is most likely.
Saturday’s victory might have been the Wolves’ most promising, most resilient of the season and yet few fans back home watched the game. It wasn’t shown because Saturday was “Hockey Day in Minnesota” and partner FSN showed prep, college and NHL puck from morning to night.
“Well, was it on TV at all?” Williams asked. “OK, was it on [NBA] League Pass? Yes? All right, we cool.”
Monday’s game at Charlotte won’t be shown on FSN either because it’s a Martin Luther King matinée and presumably would draw too small of a television audience.
Wiggins was asked after Saturday’s game which of his statistics — 31 points, nine rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots and a steal — meant the most to him, and he played the questioner like the reporter was the rookie instead of him.
“Uh,” he said, “the win.”