DALLAS – A somber Karl-Anthony Towns, his right forearm contusion wrapped in heavy bandages, struck a somber tone following the Timberwolves' 110-108 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Towns was asked what his team said to each other following such an emotional loss, one that prevented them from pulling within a half-game of Dallas for the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference and instead dropped them a half-game behind Denver for the all-important No. 6 seed.
"I can't say or I'll get fined," Towns said.
Towns didn't say it directly, but the Wolves were irate over a controversial call when Reggie Bullock fouled Patrick Beverley with the Wolves down 110-107 and 6.5 seconds remaining.
Beverley was trying to hoist a shot and get a shooting foul because the Mavericks were trying to foul without the Wolves — who blew a 103-100 lead only minutes earlier — getting a three-point attempt. But officials ruled Beverley wasn't yet in the act of shooting when Bullock fouled him, and since the Wolves were in the penalty that meant two shots, not three, at the line. The Wolves were enraged, with coach Chris Finch and Beverley screaming at officials. D'Angelo Russell did his best to hold both back.
After the game, Finch was more direct in his comments about the play.
"I mean, kind of wild, really," Finch said. "Looking at the tape, I thought PB got fouled on the shot which was a three-pointer, should've been three on the right wing. He was clearly in the gather and the turn and thought that should've been for sure a three-point shot."
The Wolves never got a chance to tie after Beverley missed the first free throw, then missed the second intentionally, got his own rebound and was fouled by Luka Doncic. After a review challenging the foul call, officials ruled for the Mavericks, the teams jumped it up at midcourt and Beverley got the ball again — and was again fouled with 2.5 seconds left.
He made the first missed the second, but nobody could corral the rebound as time ran out on the Wolves' chance to make a big move in the standings.
"Maybe [we learned to] not put the game in any official's hands and try to win it straight up, and not depend on refs to make a call," said guard D'Angelo Russell, who finished with 18 points. "Just try to put the game out of reach so none of that is into play."
The Wolves already had their hands full with Doncic, and they did a commendable job on him most of the night.
Doncic had only 15 points on 5-for-17 shooting, and a rotating cast of Wolves defenders that included Jarred Vanderbilt, Anthony Edwards and Patrick Beverley forced him into eight turnovers.
But the attention the Wolves had to pay Doncic eventually caught up to them in the fourth quarter, when they blew a three-point lead as Doncic powered a 10-2 run in the final minutes by distributing the ball to open teammates. That led to crushing corner threes for Dorian Finney-Smith and Bullock as the Wolves' slim lead disappeared — Doncic finished with 10 assists.
Earlier in the night, Dwight Powell toasted them at the rim for 22 points on 8-for-8 shooting while Spencer Dinwiddie helped Dallas' bench outplay Minnesota's in the second and early fourth quarters with 20 points.
"It's one of those things that hurts a lot," Towns said. "I think you can tell in my voice it hurts a lot. Thought we did enough to win the game today."
Towns said he looked at the final four minutes of the game on an iPad in the locker room. What he saw in the final moments left him and his teammates fuming.
"It hurts a lot to have it played out like that," Towns said. "It's a tough one to accept, it's tough to watch the tape and have to see that. Just have to move on and get ready."