For the ninth time this season, the Wolves looked at film before practicing, trying to figure out how they let a double-digit lead turn into a loss.
It happened again Saturday, when the Wolves led by 12 with 2:20 left only to see the Houston Rockets finish the fourth quarter on a 14-2 run and force overtime. Houston ultimately won 109-111.
“We went through the film and walked through some of the things we wanted to correct,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said.
There was a lot to look at and a lot to work on. But, in breaking down how the Wolves lost a nine-point lead with a minute left in the game, the biggest culprits were turnovers and defensive breakdowns.
First, the turnovers:
Center Karl-Anthony Towns had 41 points and 15 rebounds Saturday. But he also had six turnovers dealing with the double-teams the Rockets threw at him at times, especially late. Towns and Zach LaVine combined for 14 of the team’s 22 turnovers.
Turnovers hurt, especially late.
Towns scored on a 5-footer to put the Wolves up 12 with 2:20 left in regulation. Towns was called for an offensive foul on the Wolves’ next possession, then he missed a shot, then he threw the ball away with 45.3 seconds left. Trevor Ariza followed with a three-pointer that cut the Wolves’ lead to four.
“Both Karl And [Andrew] Wiggins, they’re seeing the double-team a lot earlier,” Thibodeau said. “We have to adjust to that and be ready.”
After the game Towns said he wasn’t seeing anything he hadn’t seen before and was just trying to make plays. Thibodeau said it’s a work in progress.
“We have to continue to work on it,’’ he said. “Some of it he held on to it too long. Some of it was the second pass out, and we bobbled catches, and you can’t do that. We’ve been working on it a lot in practice, and they’re coming quicker, so you have to recognize it quicker.’’
As for the defensive breakdowns?
A glaring one came on Ryan Anderson’s three-pointer with 33 seconds left, which cut the Wolves’ lead to three. And then, after LaVine and Wiggins had misses at the other end, a wide-open Ariza tied the score with 6.5 seconds left.
On the first play, Towns and Wiggins both went to James Harden, leaving Anderson wide open.
“Any time you make a mistake or have indecision, and you have two [players] go to one, you open up the line,” Thibodeau said. “And you’re putting yourself in harm’s way.’’
On the Ariza game-tying shot, the Wolves defense collapsed on the driving Harden, which left Ariza open for Harden’s drive-and-dish.
Thibodeau said the team needed to realize that, up three, there was no reason to react to the driving Harden. “The two doesn’t beat you,’’ Thibodeau said. “We have to learn from that.’’