Agitated Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau called for improvement Monday night, after formerly floundering Miami won its 11th consecutive game and his team lost its fourth in a row, 115-113 at Target Center.
Thibodeau said he will seek it from himself, his team and most pointedly from his best players after the Wolves gave up 71 points and 11 three-pointers in the first half. Despite that, the Wolves still had two Andrew Wiggins jumpers in the final 11 seconds that could have tied or maybe won the game.
The Wolves shot nearly 54 percent from the floor and scored nine points more than their season average, but they still couldn’t prevail over an opponent that started the season 11-30 and now hasn’t lost since Jan. 13 at Milwaukee.
“It’s got to change,” Thibodeau said. “We’re scoring the ball plenty. We are. The defense, if we don’t straighten it out, it’s going to be hard to win. It is.”
Goran Dragic, the Heat’s veteran point guard, made his first seven three-point attempts, didn’t miss one until nearly three minutes gone in the fourth quarter and finished a 33-point night by going 13-for-17 from the floor.
Thibodeau said his team played without an “edge” right from the game’s start.
“Our best players have to lead,” he said. “They can’t be one-sided players. This isn’t football, where there’s an offense and a defense. You have to play both sides of the ball to play it well. You have to play it unselfishly, you have to play it together and you have to have the discipline to do it over and over again. And so until we figure that out, it’s going to be hard to move forward.”
A strength much of this season, rebounding helped doom the Wolves. Miami outrebounded them 38-34 and turned 13 offensive rebounds into 25 second-chance points.
Afterward, the Wolves’ best player said this:
“Obviously, we all have a part,” center Karl-Anthony Towns said. “We all have to do a better job finding ways to get stops. It’s something we’ve got to do. I think from myself, personally, I know how important defense is. I never would have been undefeated in college without it. We have to go back to the lab tomorrow and find ways to make ourselves a better team.”
The Wolves could have got a jump-start on that if they hadn’t allowed the Heat — particularly Dragic — undefended three-point attempts time after time.
“The rim looks huge,” Dragic said. “The first four three-pointers were really easy. There was no contest.”
Trailing by 11 late in the first quarter, by 14 at halftime and still by seven with two minutes left, the Wolves used a press defense and a late 6-0 run to get within 114-113 on Wiggins’ three-point play with 22 seconds to go.
Wiggins shot two jumpers in the final 11 seconds: the first could have given the Wolves their first lead, the second could have sent the game to overtime. He missed both, after making similar shots last month to win at Phoenix and force OT in a home victory over Orlando.
“I had a good look at the basket, both of them,” Wiggins said. “Just didn’t go in.”
Thibodeau approved of both shots and suggested Wiggins could have let fly a three for the winner in the final seconds instead of driving for a closer shot.
“As long as he gets to his shot and shoots it well, which I thought he did on both of them, I’m good with that,” Thibodeau said.
He didn’t sound good, though, with his players’ defense or himself. “I have to do a better job to get our team to play defense,” Thibodeau said. “We have to prioritize it. It has to be important to everybody. You can’t win like this. You can’t.”