PHILADELPHIA – Saturday's 112-109 Timberwolves victory over Philadelphia was a matter of perspective, and perhaps a litmus test for whether a fan is an optimistic or pessimistic fan.
Glass half empty: the Wolves let a 20-point lead dwindle to one with 29.1 seconds remaining against a shorthanded Philadelphia team down three key contributors. Coach Chris Finch referred to most of their fourth quarter as an "avalanche of mistakes."
The Wolves had eight turnovers and a scoreless stretch of 5 minutes, 18 seconds on their way to just 15 fourth-quarter points. Not a cause for celebration.
Glass half full: The Wolves regrouped. Anthony Edwards (a team-high 25 points) came up with a big shot and a couple key defensive plays to secure the Wolves' third conscutive win, and any win for this team, especially after its early stumbles, is a good win.
"We were able to hang on, make a couple shots, make a couple big plays to win a game like that," Finch said. "But it really shouldn't have come down to that."
By "that," Finch was referring to the nervous moments that happened inside of a minute to play. After the 76ers cut the lead to 110-109 on a De'Anthony Melton three, Melton (19 points) picked Edwards' pocket with 14 seconds remaining and had a runway for a layup. But Edwards, who also hit an important three to snap Minnesota's scoreless drought with 3:28 to play, hustled back on defense.
"My heart was hurt," Edwards said. "I ain't never got plucked in the open court. But I was like, 'We can't lose off of a steal like this. Nah, not on me. I got to block this.' So I tried to make a play on it."
He didn't block it, but he contested it enough to force a miss, and Karl-Anthony Towns (12 points) secured the rebound. Edwards sank two free throws to increase the lead to three with 4.1 to play. He then contested Georges Niang's last-second three-point try enough to force an airball, and the Wolves (8-8) exhaled loudly.
"We got to all get on the same page with what we're trying to do and execute with force," said Rudy Gobert (eight points, 13 rebounds). We have so much talent, we're going to be able to get some really good things at the end of the game."
The night could have and should have been easier for the Wolves, considering the 76ers were down three starters in James Harden (right foot tendon sprain), Tyrese Maxey (left foot fracture) and Tobias Harris (hip). Joel Embiid almost to carried them to the win with 32 points, 18 of those coming at the free-throw line in a game that featured 49 fouls.
"This is a game that you have to get if you're in our situation," Finch said. "Not just trying to scratch back to .500 on the season, but that's also a team that's severely depleted. The schedule presents us with an opportunity to play a team like Philly who's not at full strength; you've got to make hay in this one."
They made just enough.
There was some symmetry to the Wolves' victory and their situation a season ago. They came to Philadelphia in November as a team fumbling its way around early the season one game below .500. They lost a big lead but held on to win (albeit in two overtimes), with Edwards contesting a last-second three-pointer from Embiid in the same spot he contested Niang's — in the corner in front of the Wolves bench.
That Wolves team found its footing not long after that win. This Wolves team is still trying to stand, even after it wins.
"There's positives and negatives," Gobert said. "I'm glad that we won. I really want to say that. But obviously it's a little sour when you close the game like this."