Timberwolves Wrap: Wolves go cold in fourth, lose

Nov 21, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) shoots in the second quarter against the Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 21, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) shoots in the second quarter against the Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

The script changed just a bit for the Timberwolves in this one, as instead of a poor third quarter, the Wolves took a 13-point lead into the fourth and completely collapsed down the stretch in the loss.

99. 18. Final. 93. 86

Did anyone see that coming?

Sure, maybe in the third quarter. But after the Wolves won the third quarter by three points and carried a 13-point lead, at home, to the fourth quarter?

Did anyone see an 0-for-8 start from the field in the final frame? What about 1-for-17?

The Timberwolves led by an 81-68 margin as the fourth quarter began but found themselves trailing, 85-81 after a 17-0 run from the visiting Boston Celtics. In fact, the Wolves only had 87 points when the Celtics made it a three possession game with under a minute remaining.

That means that in the first 11 minutes of the fourth quarter, the Timberwolves managed just six points. Six. Points.

The first quarter of the game was sloppy but hotly contested, and the Wolves bench dominated the second frame — a key to the game that we mentioned in the preview.

And that meant that Minnesota led by 10 points at halftime. Given the third quarter swoons that the Wolves and their fans have experienced in the first month of the season, it was fair to expect it to be a struggle for the Timberwolves to even make it to the fourth quarter with a lead.

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Instead, they built on it, and seemed to be in control as the final frame began. But the Celtics had other ideas, and stifled the Wolves’ pick-and-roll offense as the Wolves opened the fourth with it’s bench unit in the game.

When the starters returned after a series of rapid-fire timeouts from Tom Thibodeau, it didn’t matter. The Celtics defense continued to slow the Wolves down to a halt, and the offensive rebounds that Minnesota corralled in the first half of the game were suddenly vacuumed up by the visitors.

The Wolves defense was largely okay, save for a couple of lapses in pick-and-roll coverage on the perimeter, but the Celtics simply made shots down the stretch that they didn’t convert early on in the game.

It was a new, gut-wrenching way to lose. Wolves fans had been conditioned to expect the third quarter letdown, and when it didn’t happen, no doubt breathed a sigh of relief.

Perhaps the players did the same thing in this one.

Tweet of the Night

Player of the Game

Karl-Anthony Towns: 27 points (11-19 FG, 2-4 3P, 3-6 FT), 18 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks

Towns was magnificent, scoring the Wolves first few buckets of the game and providing dominance in the paint throughout the contest. He only turned the ball over one time in 38 minutes, and was fantastic when only single-covered in the post.

It was a shame that the Wolves weren’t able to capitalize on Towns’ impressive performance, especially down the stretch when the offense was scuffling mightily.

Notable Timberwolves Lines

  • Gorgui Dieng: 20 points (10-16 FG, 0-2 FT), 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, one block, 5 turnovers
  • Ricky Rubio: 7 points (1-7 FG, 1-4 3P, 4-4 FT), 9 assists, 8 rebounds, one steal, zero turnovers
  • Zach LaVine: 11 points (4-12 FG, 0-7 3P, 3-3 FT), 4 assists, 3 rebounds, one steal, one block, one turnover
  • Nemanja Bjelica: 10 points (3-5 FG, 1-2 3P, 3-4 FT), one rebound, one turnover, 10 minutes

Dieng was great, especially early in the game. It’s mind-boggling that he only attempted two free throws on the night as he was consistently in the thick of things down low.

Rubio was great, save for making shots. He committed zero turnovers in 38 minutes and was active on the glass as well.

Something to keep an eye on: all five Wolves starters played 38 minutes or more, and Shabazz Muhammad‘s 16 minutes led the bench unit. Thibodeau’s reputation of over-working his starters hasn’t really taken hold as of yet, and this was the first time it was extremely apparent.

Who knows, but perhaps the extra four to six minutes that each starter played contributed to tired legs and missed shots down the stretch.

Next: Point Guard Play Is Holding The Timberwolves Back

Who’s Up Next?

The Wolves head to New Orleans for their first ESPN game of the season. Tip-off against the 4-10 Pelicans is at 8:30 p.m. Central Time. The Pels have won two games in a row but take on the Hawks in Atlanta on Tuesday night and will be on the second half of a back-to-back come Wednesday.