The Minnesota Timberwolves’ first home game started with an outpouring of emotion. They would like the second to end with a victory.
After a two-day break following a draining tribute to Flip Saunders, the Timberwolves look for their first home win against the Miami Heat on Thursday night.
A heart-rending opening two weeks for the Timberwolves continued on Monday with a pregame tribute to Saunders, the team’s president of basketball operations, coach and minority owner who died last week after complications with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
"I was drained from the beginning," rookie Karl-Anthony Towns said. "I was crying the whole pregame. I was emotionally drained coming out."
The Timberwolves (2-1) followed with their first flat game of the season, falling behind Portland by double digits in the fourth quarter before a late rally fizzled in a 106-101 loss.
"(Monday) night was a tough night, guys," interim coach Sam Mitchell said after Tuesday’s practice. "There’s no words you can give to someone to make them feel better. All you can do is be there."
Getting back on the winning track would help, and it might take a better performance from Andrew Wiggins to make that happen.
Wiggins has opened his second season making 30 percent of his shots while missing all six of his 3-pointers and committing nine turnovers. He had a rough showing offensively against the Trail Blazers, finishing 5 for 17 for 16 points.
"In 82, that’s going to happen," Mitchell said. "He understands that. We’ve just got to get him rolling. He knows that. We need him."
Towns was also grounded against Portland. After posting 42 points and 26 rebounds in Minnesota’s first two wins, he finished with 11 points and five boards while committing four turnovers and five fouls.
Towns and Wiggins may have an opportunity to regroup against a Miami team that has allowed an average of 45.0 points in the paint through four games. Miami (2-2) scored 52 points in the lane against Atlanta on Tuesday but also surrendered that many in a 98-92 loss at home.
The Heat trimmed a 15-point lead to four early in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t get closer. Miami committed a season-high 19 turnovers while dishing out a season-low 13 assists.
"We were able to fight back. That is an admirable quality of this group," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "But learning how close the margin for error is can be a lesson."
Dwyane Wade logged his fourth consecutive 20-point game even though he spent a long period of the second half in the locker room dealing with a migraine. He returned in the fourth quarter after taking some medicine.
More concerning for the Heat is the news that Gerald Green was admitted to the hospital on Wednesday morning for unknown reasons. The team released a statement saying Green was taken to an undisclosed hospital.
Green, who signed with Miami as a free agent in July, averaged 10.3 points in the first three games. He did not play against the Hawks with what the Heat called an illness.
Minnesota snapped a six-game home losing streak against Miami with a 102-101 win Feb. 4 behind 30 points from Kevin Martin. Hassan Whiteside, who’s put up 48 points and 29 boards in the Heat’s two games in November, had his only career 20-20 game (24 points, 20 rebounds) last season in Minneapolis.