Timberwolves take four-game win streak into game vs. Hornets
MINNEAPOLIS -- As soon as the Minnesota Timberwolves won their fourth straight game, coach Tom Thibodeau was already cautioning his team to stay focused on the upcoming task.
Minnesota has its second back-to-back set this season when it hosts the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday. The Timberwolves beat the Dallas Mavericks 112-99 on Saturday for their first four-game winning streak since December 2012.
The excitement of the streak couldn't be lost in preparation for Charlotte, in Thibodeau's eyes.
"You want to go step by step," Thibodeau said. "Obviously, it's better than losing, but the big thing is for us to concentrate on improving. ... There's another one coming tomorrow, so if you start feeling good about yourself, you're going to get knocked down."
The Hornets started their four-game road trip with a 108-101 loss at San Antonio on Friday, but they are also a surprise team with newcomer Dwight Howard proving a complement to point guard Kemba Walker.
Howard had 20 points and 12 rebounds in Friday's loss, and Walker had 13 points. Jeremy Lamb, a bigger part of the lineup with Nicholas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist out, had a career-high 27 points.
"I got some shots to go down and my teammates put me in some great spots, but it doesn't feel good when you lose," Lamb said. "We will watch some film and learn from this. We made some crucial turnovers late in the third quarter when the Spurs were able to get out and make some easy layups. Then the 3-pointers at the end were backbreakers."
Lamb has scored at least 15 points in nine straight games, and the loss had snapped a three-game winning streak for Charlotte.
"We had, in one stretch, three turnovers that led directly to baskets out of five possessions," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said of the Spurs' third-quarter surge. "Our guys did a lot of good things, but we just are not going to win with those plays, especially on the road against a team like that."
Kidd-Gilchrist is out of the lineup for personal reasons and won't make it back for Sunday's game in Minnesota.
With Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford joining a young nucleaus in Minnesota, the Timberwolves are looking like one of the Western Conference's best teams. They've won five games by single digits before cruising to the big win on Saturday as Karl-Anthony Towns bounced back from the worst offensive performance of his three-year career.
Towns had 31 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in the win after scoring a career-low two points in Wednesday's victory over New Orleans. With the performance, Minnesota has its longest winning streak since Towns was in high school.
"It means four in a row," Towns said. "It's a number. It's a number before five, and we hope to get to five. So tomorrow we're going to come in with the same intensity."
Thibodeau's message, along with Butler's leadership by example, is paying off for the Timberwolves. Butler was held to four points but had five rebounds and seven assists. Minnesota is 6-1 with Butler in the lineup.
"I'm not giving up anything," Butler said of his deferring, at times to teammates. "As long as we win, I'm happy. That's what they brought me here for, to help this organization win. I feel like I'm doing a great job of that. I love to get my teammates involved. That's all I care about.
Like I've said my entire career, as long as we're winning, I don't give a damn what my stats look like. I think winning makes everybody happy.
Butler's role, to this point, is has been an example to his young teammates.
"As time goes on, you'll see him progressing to scoring as well, but I think he might be overdoing it. He's trying to get everyone else going and then he'll take care of what he has to take care of at the end of the game," Thibodeau said.
"That's the great value in having a guy like that. He's not going to force things. He's going to make plays. You can put him on anybody. He can guard five positions. But the playmaking in making the right play is the most important thing, but for Jimmy the winning is the most important thing."
Updated November 5, 2017