Malik Beasley hit a triple with 9 minutes, 7 seconds left to put Minnesota up 95-94 to play Friday.
And, as has been the case often this season, Minnesota couldn’t close.
The Timberwolves fell 120-114 to Charlotte.
But this time, it had less to do with establishing offensive rhythm as an inability to get stops. Charlotte hit four threes over the course of six possessions — including a couple of challenging hits from Terry Rozier.
Rozier finished with a jaw-dropping 41 points on 13-for-20 shooting, while hitting six triples.
“He was just hitting some crazy stuff today. I don’t really know,” Anthony Edwards said. “I mean, it’s a part of basketball. Nothing is really frustrating. The loss is frustrating. But as far as him making shots, he’s an NBA player. We don’t expect him to miss everything. I feel like it’s just basketball.”
Still, in that span, Charlotte only expanded its lead from two points to four, as Minnesota contended with its own buckets, as Karl-Anthony Towns — who looked sluggish in the first half as he continued to work his way back in his second game since returning from COVID-19 — hit a pair of triples.
But Minnesota went cold from there, and Charlotte (13-14) continued to find enough ways to score to expand the lead down the stretch. The Wolves went 1:36 without a score as the Hornets’ lead stretched from one to eight.
Minnesota simply couldn’t get any stops to put itself in a good position. That’s what Edwards, in his limited NBA experienced, has found to be the most challenging part of closing games late.
“It’s really just defense, just stringing stops together,” Edwards said. “It’s harder said than done. That’s about it, for real.”
That spoiled a night in which the Wolves played well enough to win. They committed just eight turnovers while scoring 21 points off Charlotte’s 20 giveaways. Minnesota (6-20) shot 45 percent from the field and 39 percent from three-point range. Those are traditionally numbers that will win you games.
“We did enough to put ourselves in a position to feel better coming out of here,” Saunders said. “But we didn’t make enough plays coming down the stretch on the offensive end or the defensive end.”
That’s what happens in the NBA. Malik Beasley, Towns and Edwards all went over 20 points. Beasley led the team with 31, including seven triples.
Games are often decided in the final few minutes. That’s when everything is placed under a microscope. Decisions Saunders makes, from going with Ricky Rubio over Jordan McLaughlin to briefly playing Josh Okogie in a period in which the Wolves struggled to score.
On sitting McLaughlin, who had six points, seven assists and four steals in 22 minutes, Saunders said, “it’s tough. I trust both those point guards. So, yeah it’s hard, but I’m comfortable with both of them being in there.”
Saunders did indeed go with Jaden McDaniels down at the very end, and he said Okogie was on the floor to give McDaniels a brief break so he didn’t play the entire final frame.
The adjustments continue as Minnesota continues to look for a winning late-game solution.
“We’ve just got to stay together and make sure we watch film and learn from it,” Beasley said.