Make it a dozen consecutive losses for the Timberwolves following a 113-109 road defeat to the Sacramento Kings Monday night.
Minnesota, an NBA-worst 5-26 since Thanksgiving, sputtered in the middle quarters and found themselves trailing by as many as 21 points in the third quarter, only to rally and fall short.
Robert Covington's 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds to play cut Sacramento's lead to 112-109, and the Wolves had a chance to tie after the Kings were whistled for a 5-second violation, but Andrew Wiggins missed the tying 3-point attempt to seal the latest loss in what's turned into a miserable season for the Wolves.
"There's fight. That's never a question. we're scratching and clawing. It's tough," said Saunders. "We're not in this for marginal victories. We're in this to improve. We're in this to fight and find what we need to be a sustainable team."
The 12-game losing streak is tied for the fifth-longest in franchise history. A loss Wednesday at Target Center to the Atlanta Hawks would equal the 13-game losing streak conducted by the 2008 Wolves.
The longest losing streak in team history is 18 games. That included 15 straight losses to end the 2010-11 season and three losses to begin the 2011-12 season. The longest single-season losing streak is 16 games, which has happened twice (1992, 2010).
If Minnesota doesn't beat Atlanta on Wednesday, the schedule gets tough with games Saturday and Monday against the Clippers and Raptors, respectively.
Trade deadline hits Thursday
Sporting a pair of double-digit losing streaks since December, the Wolves are spiraling out of control ahead of Thursday's 2 p.m. trade deadline. Covington, Wiggins and Gorgui Dieng have all been rumored as possible trade candidates. Saunders declined to speculate if the trade rumors played a role in Monday's slow start.
"It's hard to measure something like that," Saunders said.
A flurry of reports Monday indicated Minnesota badly point guard D'Angelo Russell from the Golden State Warriors. The cost of landing Russell is reportedly significant draft capital, and Minnesota is likely to have a high pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. What they can add to that pick in an offer to convince the Warriors to part with the 23-year-old guard remains the big question.
The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reported late Monday that the Wolves, Rockets and Nets discussed a three-team deal that would've sent Covington to the Rockets and a draft pick to the Wolves. More:
"Recently, a three-way deal was discussed that would have sent Robert Covington to Houston, Clint Capela to Atlanta, and Brooklyn’s 2020 first-round pick from Atlanta to Minnesota, according to multiple league sources. But Golden State declined Minnesota’s offer—which included the Brooklyn first and its own first-round pick in 2020—and the three-way talks were put on pause."
The first-round pick Atlanta currently holds from a trade with Brooklyn is lottery-protected 2020 through 2022, and the Nets (22-27) are right on the cusp of either making the playoffs or picking in the lottery.