The Minnesota Timberwolves’ inability to hold leads has caused a season that began with promise to fade away into another seemingly lost year waiting for further development of the team’s young stars.
After another lead washed away in a hurry at Toronto on Thursday night, Minnesota has a short turnaround for Friday night’s home game against the Detroit Pistons.
“The good teams are 48-minute teams,” Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We’re still not there…The fourth quarter is different. You have to understand that. The intensity of a fourth quarter is different. Your decision-making is different. We still have to figure that out.”
Minnesota (6-16) lost 124-110 at Toronto on Thursday, its ninth loss in 11 games. Detroit traveled but had a day off after losing 87-77 at Charlotte on Wednesday.
The Pistons know trouble on the road. Detroit (12-12) has lost nine of its 13 road games this season. But the team had won three in a row on the road before the loss at Charlotte. The Pistons have also played more games on the road than at home this season.
Detroit has won six of its past nine games. But the loss to the Hornets came with a minus-21 differential in free throws attempted that was frustrating to accept.
“We got to keep growing as team and, as you grow as a team and grow in status maybe a little bit, the calls start to go your way a little better,” coach Stan Van Gundy told the Detroit Free Press. “I thought Tobias (Harris) was doing a good job attacking and didn’t get to the free-throw line a single time. That one’s a little hard to stomach.”
Harris has developed into a consistent scoring option for the Pistons. He had 14 points against Charlotte but shot 7 of 19 from the field. Harris has scored at least 20 points in four of his last seven games.
Andre Drummond had 26 points and 20 rebounds against the Hornets and point guard Reggie Jackson is working his way back into shape after missing the first 21 games while rehabbing a knee injury. Jackson, the team’s leading scorer last season with 18.8 points per game, played in his first set of back-to-back games this season in Charlotte. He scored 10 points in 25 minutes.
“Just trying to find myself,” Jackson told the team’s website. “Getting downhill, I feel like my footing’s off a little bit.”
The Timberwolves haven’t been able to find any footing. They haven’t won back-to-back games yet this season. They’ve lost four home games in a row.
It’s often been the third quarter that has let Minnesota down this season. The Timberwolves outscored Toronto in the third on Thursday only to be hammered 36-21 in the fourth.
Zach LaVine scored 29 points, Anthony Wiggins added 25 and Karl-Anthony Towns recorded 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves. That trio of young stars combined with new coach Thibodeau provided optimism unseen in Minnesota in years.
Yet, the Timberwolves have allowed 105 or more points in six straight games. Toronto’s 124 points were the most Minnesota has allowed this season and the Timberwolves entered the game 19th in the league in giving up 105.6 points per game.
“To me, the defense, we’ve got to correct it,” Thibodeau said. “We’ve got to get it better. It’s costing us right now. Until we get that straightened out, it’s going to be a problem.”
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