SAN FRANCISCO – When you’re in freefall, the end of the spiral can end with a deafening thud. You’ll know you’ve hit the nadir when it smacks you across the face, whether you see it coming or not.
The Wolves hit their bottom Monday night in San Francisco in the third quarter of their 113-104 loss the Warriors, their 11th consecutive loss. They were down by 24 points, 80-56, to the now 7-24 Warriors, the team tied for the second worst record in the league.
When you hit the bottom, two things can happen. The fall could crush you, and you lie there without getting back up. Or you could bounce back.
“It’s no secret we’re in a funk right now,” coach Ryan Saunders said. “But one thing I will say for those of you who are around our team, you see our guys, we’re still positive for the most part, but it hurts still. But we also need to understand, young team or not we got to learn lessons in this league.
“You got to go through hard times to get to where you want to be. We’re in a hard time.”
With no easy way out. The Wolves tried picking themselves back up, as they are wont to do, and made a push. They got the deficit all the way down to six multiple times in the fourth quarter and even five inside the final minute thanks to a ragtag lineup heavy on players who were in the G-League a week ago.
But like their desperate effort against the Clippers last week, they shouldn’t have been in as big a hole as they were, especially against the Warriors.
“They played harder,” said Andrew Wiggins, who had 22 points on 10 of 27 shooting. “We missed a lot of easy shots, shots we should’ve made, but for the most part, they played harder. They ran us. … It’s something we got to figure out.”
But how does that happen? How does a team that had lost 10 straight coming into Monday allow its opponent to play harder than them? Regardless of talent – and the Wolves were without Karl-Anthony Towns for the fourth consecutive game because of a sprained left knee – effort is one thing a team can control.
Why wasn’t it there?
“I wish I knew,” center Gorgui Dieng said. They played harder than us in the first half. If we played the way we did in the second half, it would be a different game.”
D’Angelo Russell had 30 points, Alec Burks had 25 and the Warriors had 22 fast-break points to open their large lead in the third, a lead big enough to survive the Wolves finally waking up.
The Wolves began making a push when Saunders turned to the end of his bench to find guys who weren’t there even a week ago. A lineup featuring Iowa mainstays Jordan McLaughlin, Kelan Martin and Jaylen Nowell keyed the attempted comeback.
“I’m proud of them,” Saunders said. “I’m glad we had those guys. They competed and they fought.”
McLaughlin came out of nowhere to get 19 points, four assists and three steals. Martin pitched in with eight points, all in the second half. They helped the Wolves get close, but that was all.
Saunders chose to ride out his G-Leaguers, opting to bench lineup mainstays Jarrett Culver (0 points), Robert Covington (four points) and Josh Okogie (two points on 0-for-7 shooting) for those who were producing in the moment.
“We need to find a way to take the heaviness off and play together right now,” Saunders said.
It can start with energy, with having a sense of urgency, Dieng said. When asked is he was surprised the Wolves didn’t have that amid an 11-game losing streak, Dieng replied “very.”
“But as I said, we’re losing games, but we just got to learn from it and try to get one,” Dieng said. “We’re going to break the streak at some point, but the sooner the better it is.”