ORLANDO – D’Angelo Russell was cooking, as they say.
Through three quarters, he had 28 points and had hit a couple contested shots in the third quarter that make you sit back in awe.
It seemed as if Russell was poised to lead the Timberwolves back in their 136-125 loss to the Magic.
But Russell came up empty-handed in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Terrence Ross had the quarter Wolves fans were hoping Russell might have, when he went off for 19 of his 33 points.
Russell said the Magic were blitzing him during the fourth, while coach Ryan Saunders said Orlando wasn’t helping off Russell, making it hard for him to get the ball.
“They started out blitzing,” Saunders said. “And the way I saw, I’ll have to watch the film, I thought they were spying him where they basically were almost playing one defender pretty tight to him, negating some of his help responsibilities I guess to try and keep the ball out of his hands.”
Miami tried to do the same thing to Russell, and Saunders deployed a dual point guard lineup with Jordan McLaughlin to combat that. It resulted in a win. The Wolves tried the same Friday, and though Russell didn’t score, the Wolves did have 29 points for the quarter. They just allowed 33 to Orlando.
“We made plays. I think we did a good job of making plays,” Russell said. “We just couldn’t get any stops to capitalize on it.”
After the game Juancho Hernangomez had to hurry to the team bus, so only took two questions during his postgame scrum. The first question related to how hard it was to rebound against Orlando, who outrebounded the Wolves 54-33. Hernangomez gave a fairly in-depth answer to that question. Here it is in its entirety:
“We already know they are big, they got guys that can crash the boards. We play with three big men and [James Johnson] and me are not like 5s. We miss Karl-Anthony Towns there, but that’s no excuse. Forget the rebounds, just box your man out. They got too many second-chance points.
“When you’re guarding for a long time, that really hurts. When we play good defense, 18-20 seconds of good defense and they shoot a bad shot, that’s good defense, and then they got a putback for easy points.
We are building. We have to keep trusting each other. Get together tomorrow, watch the film and get better. That’s the only key.
You cannot build a castle in one day. It’s going to take time. But the good thing is the guys have energy, the guys have positive minds and positive energy and we’re going to compete every single day.”