ORLANDO – As he was hurrying to catch the final bus to the airport following the Timberwolves’ 136-125 loss to the Magic, Juancho Hernangomez got dressed while fielding questions from reporters.
As he was stuffing his things into a bag, Hernangomez wasn’t all that upset, echoing the tones of his teammates following a 1-3 road trip.
“You cannot build a castle in a day,” said Hernangomez, who finished with 18 points.
You can build sand castles in a day. But odds are Hernangomez had something more grand and more concrete in his mind with that metaphor.
The Wolves finished this four-game road trip 1-3 with an emotional victory at Miami on Wednesday. They talked about wanting to build off that headed into Friday’s game, to pile a win on top of a win — a brick on top of a brick.
Except when there were bricks thrown at the basket — or just regular misses — it seemed as if Orlando was coming down with every one Friday.
The Wolves knew they were going to have their hands full on the glass with a tall Magic team. They mentioned it in their pregame scout. They harped on it on the bench.
But when shots were deflecting off the rim, the Wolves seemed helpless.
Orlando outrebounded them 54-33 and had 20 second-chance points to the Wolves’ six.
“You can’t get outrebounded by 21,” coach Ryan Saunders said.
Both Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic gobbled up whatever they wanted, with Vucevic scoring 27 points to go with 10 boards and Gordon notching a triple-double with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists.
It also didn’t help that Terrence Ross went off for 19 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter.
“It’s easy to get confidence from a win and kind of get comfortable,” said D’Angelo Russell, who finished with 28 points. “Last game we did everything we were supposed to do offensively, defensively. So the result was a win. I don’t think we did everything we could’ve done tonight. We were kind of just floating through the motions and swimming upstream.”
It seemed as if Russell was doing that in the fourth quarter as Orlando prevented him from scoring. Orlando had its largest lead of the night, 117-103, at the 8 minute, 8 second mark when Russell re-entered the game. But he couldn’t bring the Wolves back. Saunders said it seemed as if the Magic was “spying” on Russell, or playing extra tight on him without using that defender to help, to make sure he didn’t get the ball.
“They started blitzing me,” Russell said. “We made plays. I think we did a good job of making plays. We just couldn’t get any stops to capitalize on it.”
Ross went crazy in the fourth, as he made the Wolves’ lives miserable coming off screens and prevented them from getting any closer than six down the stretch. After the Wolves made it 122-116, Vucevic got a layup and Ross sealed the game with his seventh three-pointer of the night.
“Ross is not no one-guy stop,” forward James Johnson said. “ That’s a whole team game plan with him. You can tell he’s a professional. He really running off them screens hard and not making it easy.”
The Wolves were operating smoothly offensively for most of the night. Johnson got to the basket at will in the first half, and it prompted Russell to tell Mo Bamba, who was matched up on Johnson, how he couldn’t guard Johnson, who had 17 points. Russell had his moments, too, as he scored 10 in the third quarter alone. But there wasn’t enough consistency overall and too many lapses on the glass.
“We’re fine,” said Josh Okogie, who had 14 points, five rebounds and four assists. “We’re a great team. We know that. We’re actually a whole new team. So when we look at it, all these teams, they’ve been together. They’ve had a full training camp together. A lot of teams lost together this season. We’re getting our losses out of the way. The wins are going to come.”