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Last Shots: A delay, two reviews, and learning from a KAT-less loss

MINNEAPOLIS – Twenty-three quick thoughts for the 23 minutes played by Robert Covington in Minnesota’s 134-106 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night at Target Center.

1. Well, from the very beginning Monday was a strange night at Target Center. It promised to be that regardless, seeing as this was the second game of a two-game stretch that the NBA mandated Karl-Anthony Towns wasn’t allowed to attend because of his scuffle with Joel Embiid last week. Then, roughly 10 minutes before tip was scheduled, the NBA ruled that the basket on the east end of the floor was not up to standards for the game.

2.  The league brought out a ladder and a level and deemed it inappropriate for play. Then the league brought out an even bigger ladder so that they could start to deconstruct the basket and the number of cameras and other devices on top of it. An auxiliary hoop was found from the depths of Target Center to replace the faulty set up.

3. Then, after approximately 40 minutes, the old basket was deemed playable. The crew rushed to put things back together in terms of the cameras and other things, but didn’t exactly finish the job before the game began. We’ll get to that later.

4. The two teams then had a 7:30 warm up period before the game officially tipped off at 7:59, a delay of 50 minutes.

5. “I haven’t been a part of something like that before, so it was, you figure it out,” head coach Ryan Saunders said after the loss. “We had guys, obviously we shot for a little bit, had our trainers work with them. Just keeping their muscles activated and warm and then we had a brief meeting in the locker room. We didn’t want to overwhelm them because we had just gone through everything, but we had a brief meeting.”

6. The players left the court for a period of time, heading back to the locker room before being summoned once again.

7. “Man, that was tough,” Robert Covington said. “Guys mentally was prepared when that clock was going off. Just playing for that time frame, trying to keep your body going, you kind of settle down a little bit, trying to play catch up and do it that quick, it throws your mindset off a little bit. Being professionals, we had to sit up here and we had to adjust. You’re not used to having a 50-minute delay. Your mindset is, you’re preparing your body, then you’re getting loose, then your body cools down, then you’ve gotta ramp your body back up.”

8. This one was always going to be a tough matchup, whether it started on time or not. The Wolves got an up-close look at one of the NBA’s true contenders for the second time in a week, and it didn’t go well. Last week in Philadelphia the Wolves couldn’t hang with the Sixers from the jump and on Monday night they let things get away from them in the second half against the Bucks.

9. The Wolves played well in the first half. While they never led, it seemed that every time the Bucks were able to extend their lead neat double-digits, the Wolves had some sort of answer. Andrew Wiggins and Covington kept Minnesota in it early, but a bad third quarter doomed them. The case can really be made that the final play of the second quarter is what shifted the momentum of the entire game.

10. With four seconds left in the first half, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo grabbed a Shabazz Napier miss, raced down the floor, collided with Jordan Bell, laid the ball up and in, and the buzzer sounded at what all felt like the exact same time.

11. On the floor there was confusion as to what the call originally was. The call technically was a charge on Antetokounmpo with 0.2 seconds remaining in the period. The officiating crew went to the monitor to review that the play happened while there was still time left on the clock and not after it had already expired. That was confirmed.

12. Following that review, Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer challenged the ruling on the floor of a charge. That call was then overturned to a blocking foul on Bell, with Antetokounmpo’s continuation counting the basket, despite the fact that the ball was still on his fingertips as time expired.

13. What made this entire process even more complicated is that it happened on the same end as the malfunctioning basket. The crew at Target Center was unable to get the basket to how it was exactly set up prior to the tear down before the game started. This meant that there were less cameras available to replay on that end, notably the camera that is usually positioned at the top of the shot clock was not present at that end of the floor. Having more technology there doesn’t mean anything necessarily would have changed, but it’s something worth thinking about.

14. In the span of two reviews and a little less than five minutes, the Wolves went from trailing 62-57 and feeling good about themselves to being down 64-57 and the wind sucked out of the building.

15. After the game Saunders declined to comment on the play.

16. The Wolves seemed to not be able to recover from that play the rest of the night. Including the final sequence of the first half, the Bucks went on a 22-8 run that lasted until almost midway through the third quarter, and suddenly the Wolves found themselves down 21.

17. “They’re a good team. Credit goes to them. They overwhelmed us a little bit in the third quarter,” Saunders said. “Their defensive activity, the way they protect the rim, there’s a reason why they’re the best team in the league when it comes to protecting the paint and protecting the rim. Shots didn’t fall. They went on a run, they can do that.”

18. That’s exactly what the Bucks did. That’s who the Bucks are right now, and that third quarter showed exactly where the Wolves are at right now, especially without Towns available. The Bucks are a team that knows – to an extent – how to win. They also know how to play together at this point. The Wolves are still trying to do both of those things.

19. The Bucks are a team that aspires to win a championship this year. The Wolves are a team that aspires to win a championship, but also knows that it’s a process to get there. When things got tough for the Bucks, they didn’t abandon their system. On Monday night, the Wolves did to an extent.

20. “I think we just went away from what we were trying to do, what we normally do, what had us in the game in the first place,” Covington said. “That’s what allowed them to get out, and get that lead out. We didn’t play to our best capabilities. We can’t get away from that. We just have to ultimately keep going the course with everything that has been successful for us.”

21. There are going to be nights like this. The Wolves are early in the process of figuring all this out, and hiccups like these are part of it. The team can only hope that in losses like this one there can be lessons that can be learned to make the future a little bit clearer.

22. “We definitely are gonna go back and look at the tape and everything and see what really hurt us. That’s what we do every game. We never brush any loss off,” Covington said. “Even wins, we don’t brush them off. We actually learn from each and every one.”

23. The Wolves are back in action on Wednesday night in Memphis against the Grizzlies. Talk to you after.


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