The best thing you could say about the Timberwolves on Friday is they won.
And you haven’t been able to say that too many times this season.
Minnesota went up against a Thunder team that featured just eight healthy bodies and was without multiple starters. The Wolves won 106-103.
D’Angelo Russell buried a long triple with three seconds to play to save Minnesota from itself. Russell, who has struggled in late-game situations this season, looked up to the sky and took a deep breath as if to say “finally” after the shot fell.
Oklahoma City’s Hamidou Diallo missed an open look at the horn that would’ve sent the game to overtime.
In a game where the Wolves could’ve set the tone early with a strong start and possibly discouraged the depleted Thunder, they instead dug an early 8-0 hole. It was a back-and-forth fight from there.
“I feel we could’ve come out with a heightened sense of urgency, especially in a situation like this,” Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders said.
Malik Beasley kept Minnesota in the contest for much of the night with his hot shooting. He and Russell combined to make 11 triples.
The Wolves got strong bench contributions from Jake Layman and Jaylen Nowell, who both scored in double figures. Nowell seemed to turn his ankle in the second half, though, and didn’t return to action.
Despite the win, the closing games conundrum for Minnesota continues. The Wolves led by six with 3 minutes, 30 seconds to play, but then the offense again sputtered and they could never seem to make the one play to close the game.
Thunder forward Al Horford missed a potential game-tying 3 with 30 seconds left, and Minnesota (6-16) could’ve clinched the game with the rebound. But instead, Oklahoma City (9-12) got it, and Horford got another look from deep, which he cashed.
Immediately after the game in the locker room, Saunders went over the film with his team on how it could’ve defended better.
On the bright side, Saunders said the last play, which Russell scored on, was “executed to exactly what we wanted to get.”
“I just thought we stayed together through the ups and downs,” Saunders said. “There’s still a lot of things that we could’ve done better.”