These losses feel different to D’Angelo Russell.
The Timberwolves have has lost just twice in their past seven games — on April 21 at Sacramento and then Saturday at home in overtime against New Orleans — and both were the result of them squandering double-digit leads late in the fourth quarter.
While that can be frustrating — Minnesota is literally a couple of stops away riding a seven-game winning streak — Russell is even viewing the losses as positives these days.
“I think those two games we had a chance to win and competed. We did a lot of things right. Just didn’t get the game,” he said. “We just didn’t handle business at the end. I think we gave ourselves a chance. The last time we didn’t compete and didn’t give ourselves a chance was the Clippers (on April 18).”
That loss, a 19-point drubbing in Los Angeles, was two weeks ago. That’s quite a stretch for the Timberwolves (20-45) to go without getting their doors blown off, considering that was a multiples-times-a-week occurrence back toward the start of the season.
And it’s not as though Minnesota has repetitive late-game issues. While the Sacramento and New Orleans losses mimicked one another, the fourth quarter — especially crunch time — has been an area of strength for the Timberwolves of late, so much so that the losses feel like aberrations. Russell admitted things are getting to the point where he is almost surprised when the Timberwolves don’t pull games out in the end.
“I think we’ve got the pieces. I think we’re well prepared. I think we’re giving ourselves a chance more than we’re not,” Russell said. “So I think we’re all coming with that energy to win the game at the end.”
Now, that doesn’t mean Minnesota is going to win every game. That doesn’t happen in the NBA. But this current stretch, when the Timberwolves have won five of seven, is a strong pace.
Losses happen. Other teams will make plays. Nights like Saturday are a part of the league.
“I don’t think it’s too much to dwell on,” Russell said.
But it is something to learn from. The Timberwolves do have a propensity to give up too many easy buckets, and their offense can get stagnant late in games. Those are areas the team needs to fix.
The difference from the start of the season now, in Russell’s eyes, is that corrections are actually being made as needed.
“I’ve seen it earlier in the season, the way we were losing, we weren’t progressing from our losses,” Russell said. “We were just kind of running in quicksand with it, showing up, doing the same thing. (Now), I think we’re losing with the right formula.”