Without Russell Westbrook, Taj Gibson, Andre Roberson, Doug McDermott and Alex Abrines, the Oklahoma City Thunder found a way to spoil Minnesota's last home game of the season, 100-98 Tuesday night at Target Center.
Victor Oladipo's game-winning shot with six seconds to go culminated another late collapse by the Wolves, who are 15-29 in games this season in games that are within five points in the final five minutes, according to ESPN.
"That's what we have to learn," said Wolves head coach Tom Thibodeau. "There's 44 seconds to go ... you don't want to beat yourself. You have to be disciplined. You don't trick people. You just have to be sound. We don't need crazy shots, we don't need gambles. All you have to do is be solid and be disciplined. Do your job. If you do that you're going to give yourself a good chance to win."
The big problem: Ricky Rubio, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are among the 11 worst clutch plus-minus players in the NBA.
- Rubio: minus-64
- Towns: minus-54
- Wiggins: minus-52
Towns and Wiggins rank 10th- and- 11th-worst while Rubio ranks fourth worst. Only Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss of the Suns and Caris Levert of the Nets are worse.
Thibodeau, not afraid to tell it like it is, says they need to prepare harder if they want to contend next season.
"I think they're learning. I think that's all part of it. They think they're probably doing a lot, but it's not up to what they really need to do," he said. "Building those habits and studying and preparing and getting yourself ready to go, it's a big part of this league. The teams that are serious do it."
Towns, fifth in the league in scoring (28.4 points per game) since the All-Star break, is frustrated.
“I think there’s been progress most definitely, but it’s upsetting that we have to come down the stretch at the end of our season with losses like this,” Towns said after Tuesday's loss. “I think we’ve worked tremendously hard to improve our team, and right now we’re just not showing it. We’ve got things we’ve got to work on so next year we’re ready.”
Minnesota puts a bow on this season Wednesday night at Houston.