The Timberwolves’ past two preseason games haven’t been especially close. Both the Clippers and the Thunder grabbed control of the game early and held it without the Wolves making any serious push to threaten them.
For that, the first unit shoulders a lot of responsibility, specifically when the actual starters are starting the game.
Against the Clippers on Wednesday, the Wolves were down 34-22 before coach Tom Thibodeau called a timeout with 3 minutes, 30 seconds left in the first quarter.
At the end of the first quarter Friday, the Wolves were down 31-20. They’re allowing too many points and not scoring enough with the first unit in the game.
It’s still the preseason, but the slow starts are becoming more of a concern as the start of the regular season inches closer.
“You can fall into a trap thinking it’s preseason, we’ll get it, we’ll get it,” Thibodeau said. “That fact of the matter is, we open in 12 days. So the urgency has to be there.”
The concern for starting well also extends to the second unit, which has closed out the last few minutes of the first quarter in each preseason game.
To reserve forward Anthony Tolliver, starting well is a product of mental conditioning as much as physical.
“Throughout the season you can’t rely on the physical,” Tolliver said, noting that athletes don’t feel 100 percent healthy every game. “So you have to go out there with a mental edge every single night and make sure you understand the importance of getting off to a good start.”
The Wolves will have another chance to rectify this issue Saturday in Ames, Iowa, against the Bucks.
“Readiness to play is critical, and so you want to build that habit of when the ball goes up, you’re ready to compete, and that’s what training camp is all about,” Thibodeau said.
Karl-Anthony Towns had a special pair of shoes in Friday’s game against the Thunder — a pair of custom-made Nikes honoring rapper Mac Miller, who died in September.
Towns and Miller were friends, and after Miller’s death Towns posted a video to his Twitter account in which he gave Miller some of his jerseys.
“Love you brother. Miss you so much,” Towns said in the tweet.
The sneakers were blue and yellow with Miller’s face on them. They also feature the words “Nikes On My Feet” and “Self Care,” which are song titles of Miller’s.
• Gorgui Dieng had his best night of the preseason from a boxscore perspective — Dieng had 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting and grabbed five rebounds in 18 minutes. He had just eight points combined on 4-for-15 shooting in the first two games.
• Tolliver had an off night from the floor Saturday, shooting just 1-for-7 (he was 1-for-5 from three-point range).
• The Wolves are getting to the free-throw line at a high clip in the preseason, averaging 35.3 attempts per game, sixth in the NBA entering Saturday.