Sleepy Wolves fall to Oklahoma City 113-101
MINNEAPOLIS — It's just the preseason. For now, anyway.
No one's getting too bent out of shape at Target Center. Because for now, the statistics don't count.
But that doesn't mean they don't matter.
Because they were a bit ugly for the second game running. And that's a trend the Timberwolves would like to see end — while it's still preseason and it still doesn't count.
Playing at home for the first time, the Jimmy Butler-less Wolves turned in a sleepy performance in a 113-101 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night, Oct. 5.
"It's preseason, but we've got to treat these as real game," said Karl-Anthony Towns, who led the Timberwolves with 23 points and seven rebounds. "This is not the old school NBA anymore with 10-plus preseason games to get ready. We only get five this year."
Even though the statistics didn't count, it doesn't mean they weren't ugly. Even by preseason standards, this one was a bit of a slog.
And despite the obvious qualifiers about the preseason, it was still a bit alarming. For the second consecutive game, the Timberwolves gave up more than 60 points in the first half.
"We have to caution that if that's our approach, that it's just the preseason, we're setting ourselves up for disappointment," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We're going to open up in 12 days. There's a lot of work to do."
After yielding 69 first-half points Wednesday night in a 128-101 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Timberwolves saw the Thunder score 63 in the first half Friday night. They were down 11 after the first quarter and 14 at the half.
The Thunder, with rough-and-tumble center Steven Adams leading the way, outrebounded the Timberwolves 57-39.
"We didn't have our best game," Andrew Wiggins said. "Back to the drawing board."
With Butler absent, Wiggins had only four points, one rebound and one assist on 2-for-9 shooting in 28 minutes.
Jeff Teague had 17 points and four assists for the Timberwolves, now 1-2 in the preseason. Derrick Rose scored 11 points, while Gorgui Dieng had 10 off the bench.
Minnesota shot just 37.5 percent in the first half. It didn't get much prettier the rest of the way. The final box score showed the Timberwolves at 40.7 percent.
"I would say more than anything it's the start," Thibodeau said. "That has to be corrected. We're getting in a big hole in the first quarter. It's not only that you're getting in the big hole, but you're also giving your opponent a lot of confidence. Then it's much harder to slow them down after they get going. We're creating a problem."
While the specter of Butler, the absent star, quietly hung over the Timberwolves, the Thunder welcomed back one of their big names. Paul George made his preseason debut and was heavily involved from the start. He scored 13 of his 23 points in the first quarter, setting the tone for what was, depending on perspective, either an energetic start for the Thunder or a sluggish one for the Timberwolves.
Maybe it was both.
"I thought every possession we went down and we played the right way," George said. "We had a good pace, a good tempo. That led to some good opportunities. Good transition game, good looks."
Adams finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds. His seven offensive rebounds were more than the entire Timberwolves team, which finished with six.
Granted, those stats don't count. But in a couple of weeks, they will.
"The good thing is that it's just preseason," Wiggins said. "But you've got to realize that before you know it the real season is going to be here."