Zion Williamson dribbling toward the rim with momentum and the ferocity of someone waking up too early to an alarm has to be one of the scariest sights for an NBA defender.
Maybe it's no coincidence Karl-Anthony Towns, Naz Reid and Jaden McDaniels all fouled out of Saturday's 140-136 loss to the Pelicans. Perhaps they wanted nothing more to do with trying to stop Williamson, as hard as they tried when they were in the game.
"We got to stand in there and take it," coach Chris Finch said. "We didn't do that consistently well enough tonight."
Williamson's 37 points on 14-for-17 shooting played a large part in ending the Wolves' four-game winning streak.
The Wolves also played a part in that themselves. Despite Williamson's big night, the Wolves had a 10-point lead with 4 minutes, 22 seconds remaining and still lost.
They couldn't get a stop as New Orleans scored at least one point on its last seven possessions of regulation. They also couldn't score as they managed just four points the rest of the way. No scoring and no stops is the perfect recipe for a late-game collapse, a dish the Wolves made with more frequency earlier in the season but not as much of late.
That, in itself, is a sign of progress from where the Wolves were earlier this season, according to guard D'Angelo Russell.
"It's how we lose," Russell said. "I've seen it earlier in the season, the way we were losing, we weren't progressing from our losses. We were just kind of running in quicksand with it, showing up, doing the same thing. I think we're losing with the right formula."
Lonzo Ball added 33 points on 8-for-17 three-point shooting for New Orleans, while Russell wishes he had shot at least half or a quarter as well as Ball did. He finished with 17 points and 11 assists but was 1-for-12 from three-point range. Included in those 11 misses was the final shot of regulation, which Russell missed from just right of the top of the key. Anthony Edwards had 29 points while Towns had 28 points and 14 rebounds.
Williamson took over about halfway through overtime with the Pelicans ahead 130-129. He attacked the rim and got Towns to foul out with 2:02 to play. He hit two free throws, and after an Edwards travel Williamson attacked the rim again, this time fouling out Reid before converting a three-point play. The Wolves and their depleted frontcourt never got within one possession again.
"We maybe gave them a little too many easy chances to get a look," Towns said.
Russell said the Wolves felt helpless at times on defense.
"We know not to foul Zion," Russell said. "Put our hands behind our back and jump and they'll still call fouls. It's like, what do you do?"
One thing the Wolves could have done is execute offensively. They could have prevented the game from going to overtime, and Finch lamented the offense stagnating late, as it sometimes does.
"The game of basketball — you got to treat it with respect," Towns said. "[We] got a little too in a way casual in the end and it cost us. Didn't make the plays we needed to."
Along those lines, Russell said there might have been too much "hero ball" happening, including from himself.
"We can find the extra guy," Russell said. "The open guy is not getting the shot as much as he should no matter who he is.Trusting the group as a unit."
Saturday was similar to the Wolves' previous loss against Sacramento before their winning streak. They have taken some comfort in the fact that over their past seven games they have won five and should have won two more. They expected better Saturday, and that's a better position to be in than the one they were in earlier in the season.
"We've got the pieces, Russell said. "We're well prepared. We're giving ourselves a chance more than we're not, so I think we're all coming with that energy to win the game at the end."