Timberwolves veteran guard Kevin Martin has seen just about everything during his 12 NBA seasons, including the moments that young teammate Andrew Wiggins experienced during Tuesday’s 96-93 loss to Orlando at Target Center.
Leading his team in scoring for the 11th time in 13 games, Wiggins scored 27 points but that 28th point eluded him when he missed the second of two free throws that would have tied the score with 5.8 seconds left.
It might have been the most enduring memory because of its timing — that and Wiggins’ desperation three-point shot at the final buzzer that was blocked — but Martin considered it nothing but a footnote on a night when his team started with little energy and maybe even less cohesion. They trailed by as many as 17 points in the third quarter, but tied the score in the game’s final five minutes before losing for the eighth time in 10 home games.
“I’ve been through those same moments,” Martin said. “You want to feel bad because you feel like it was the thing that lost the game. But it didn’t lose the game. Whatever happened in the first half, that’s what lost the game. It was nothing we did in the second half and Wigs should know that. He’s done so many special things for us this year, just put that one tonight on the back burner.”
The Wolves lost because they made one of their first 13 shots and shot 37.7 percent. Karl-Anthony Towns went 2-for-11, Zach LaVine 3-for-11, Nemanja Bjelica 1-for-5, Kevin Garnett 1-for-5 and starting point guard Ricky Rubio 0-for-5 in his return after he missed the previous two games because of soreness in his surgically repaired ankle. He ended with a 3-point, 3-assist, 5-rebound evening.
Towns sat out the fourth quarter for the third time in four games while reserve center Gorgui Dieng played on.
“We shot 37 percent again,” Wolves interim head coach Sam Mitchell said. “How many games this year have we shot below 40 percent? At least six or seven. It puts a lot of pressure on your defense.”
For the record, Tuesday’s game was the fourth time in an 8-10 season start that the Wolves shot 40 percent or worse. They are 2-2 in those games.
They lost Tuesday because they trailed a Magic team that had won its three games — all at home — by 17 points twice in the third quarter before Martin’s scoring that quarter and then the energy of LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad early in the fourth quarter brought them back into contention.
Just two weeks earlier, it was the Wolves who built a double-digit, first-half lead in Orlando and lost to the Magic in overtime. This time, it appeared turnabout might be fair play, until it wasn’t at game’s end.
“I think we showed if we played the first half like the second half, we probably would have won it,” said Rubio, who said he felt good despite early worries while playing nearly 27 minutes but blamed himself for not putting his teammates in better positions.
“We go home thinking it’s our fault. It’s painful but we’re going to learn. I hope we learn sooner than later.”
The Wolves now are 6-3 on the road and 2-8 at home and probably more mystified about it than they were Monday.
“We’ve been close a lot of games at home,” Wiggins said. “Every game has been close. We just haven’t closed the games out how you want to close them.”
Tuesday’s finish included Wiggins’ last missed free throw that made him 8-for-11 from the line Tuesday.
“You can’t be angry at him,” Mitchell said. “He has played too well for us. We wouldn’t 8-10 if it weren’t for the way he has played.”