Entering Friday night, the Timberwolves had won two consecutive games. It was the first time in nearly two months a team wearing Wolves jerseys had done that.
It was the first time this particular team had done that.
But, according to Malik Beasley, there was a problem Friday night, when the Wolves lost 132-118 to Orlando at Target Center.
“I kind of felt like we got complacent and bored with success,” Beasley said.
It’s not something you’ve heard often about Wolves teams of late, and it’s a problem that veteran James Johnson said the Wolves will correct soon.
“Bad body language from the start,” forward James Johnson said. “You can use whatever excuse you want, we just didn’t come out — this is the second game at home that we did that and it’s unacceptable. We got to do better. We’re going to get better, and it’s going to start [Saturday].”
What made this so disappointing for all involved was the performance of the Wolves defense, which offered little resistance. Orlando shot 61% and was able to get to the rim with ease. The Magic closed the first half on a 7-0 run that gave it a 65-55 lead. Then it scored the first six points of the third quarter, and the Wolves never got the deficit back to single digits.
Nikola Vucevic had 28 points and 12 rebounds while Markelle Fultz had 24 points on 11-for-14 shooting, many of those baskets on layups. The Magic also played the fourth quarter without coach Steve Clifford, who became ill and was taken to a hospital, the team said. ESPN later reported he was diagnosed with dehydration and discharged.
D’Angelo Russell had his worst game in a Wolves uniform with only five points on 2-for-14 shooting. Beasley had 29 points in three quarters, including 19 in the third, but didn’t play in the fourth. Coach Ryan Saunders said he was hoping the Wolves’ second unit would make a serious push and then was going to put Beasley back in the game.
But that didn’t happen.
“It got to a point when they’re up a certain number, they’re up big like that and Malik’s been on the bench for however many minutes?” Saunders said. “You want to do right by him too, and you don’t want to put him in a situation where he’s cold going out there.”
Beasley didn’t make too big a deal out of it, even though he would have liked to play.
“Coach made a decision to see how our second unit is going to do,” Beasley said. “We didn’t get a chance to make another run, so I didn’t get to play the fourth quarter. Either way I got to start the game off ready to play.”
That extended to the team as a whole, Beasley said.
“I think it was a heart game,” Beasley said. “A pride game on the defensive end. I feel like we got complacent, so we just need to have more energy and more of a mind-set to defend and not just go out there and defend.
‘‘It’s a different thing.”
Johnson (nine points and seven assists) said there were some positives — like seeing the energy Karl-Anthony Towns had on the bench, even though he remains out because of a left wrist fracture, one that will be re-evaluated again after another two weeks, the team said Friday.
But those who were in the game had to be better. It’s one of the first times this version of the Wolves has been this upset with the effort in a game. There have been losses that haven’t been particularly close, but they chalked those up more to lack of practice time and miscommunication.
Those weren’t the excuses emanating from the locker room Friday.
“My body language can’t be like that, can’t look like that,” Johnson said. “Every night, I got to have enough confidence for everybody.”
Beasley said much of the same.
“I just have to be better at communicating to my guys that it’s not over, the game’s not over and have the right energy,” Beasley said.
Not many Wolves did.