Timberwolves' losing streak reaches nine games after falling to Thunder, 113-104

©Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

In a December 30, 2019, file image, Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders disputes a call in action against the Brooklyn Nets at the Target Center in Minneapolis. - Carlos Gonzalez/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS

MINNEAPOLIS — Karl-Anthony Towns seemed to come out fine out after two injury scares against the Thunder. The first coming after a hard fall on his left wrist in the second quarter, the second after he went to the locker room for an apparent foot issue in the third.

That was one of the few things that went the Wolves’ way Saturday night as their losing streak extended to nine with a 113-104 loss to the Thunder.

The Wolves couldn’t capitalize on a hot start from Towns, who had 19 in the first quarter on his way to 37 points. Oklahoma City got well-rounded scoring from a host of players. Guards Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder had 25 and 26, respectively, to lead seven Thunder players in double figures. The Thunder pulled away in a third quarter that featured plenty of frustration from the Wolves as Oklahoma City outscored them 39-24. The Wolves made an effort at a fourth-quarter comeback, but as had happened a lot this season, they allowed themselves to get too far behind.

Shabazz Napier had a triple double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists.

Towns scored the Wolves’ first 12 points of the game and 19 of the 22 they scored in the first quarter. The problem was, for as good as Towns was, that’s how much his teammates struggled offensively in the opening quarter. He was 7 of 9. They were 1 of 13. He was 3 of 4 from 3-point range. They were 0 for 9. So the Wolves couldn’t take advantage of Towns’ blazing start and were behind by six headed into the second quarter. The Wolves led by as much as seven when Towns was on the floor, but when he went out for rest at the 3:47 mark, the Thunder surged into the lead.

They would increase their lead to 13, 37-24, less than three minutes into the second. But then Wolves, with Towns leading the way, started chipping away at the lead. Keita Bates-Diop had a couple nice cuts to the basket for a few field goals, Towns survived a scare after falling hard on his left wrist. He remained in the game.

Andrew Wiggins struggled to get going in the first half, scoring just five points on 2-of-8 shooting.

But the Wolves at least kept pace with the Thunder on the scoreboard despite that. They entered halftime down just 52-48. Dennis Schroder had 15 off the bench for the Thunder as Shai Gilgelous-Alexander had just four on 1-of-6 shooting.

Then a nightmarish third quarter happened. The Thunder began by scoring the first six points and opened a 10-point lead, prompting a timeout from coach Ryan Saunders. The Wolves had a little run in them and pulled back within 61-59.

Then the wheels started coming off. The Thunder went on a 21-8 run and in between the Wolves took some of their frustrations out on the officials. Robert Covington picked up a technical, as did Saunders for arguing calls that might not have been worth the trouble. The Thunder were a perfect 9 for 9 from the free-throw line in the quarter, with Paul accounting for five of those points. He had 13 in the third as the Thunder outscored the Wolves by 15 to take a 91-72 lead into the fourth.

The Wolves would get as close as seven late, but buckets from Paul, Schroder and Gilgeous-Alexander extended the lead again. The Wolves got it back to five with a minute left on a Covington 3 when Paul hit another runner to close it.

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©2020 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)