HOUSTON – As Chris Finch walked into a cramped dressing room for his pre-game news conference at the Toyota Center, a TV above him was playing the third quarter of the Lakers-Nuggets game.
The most significant game to the Wolves on Sunday may not have been their own 139-132 win over Houston, but rather what happened in Los Angeles. Finch’s usual line is he doesn’t like to watch teams ahead of the wolves in the standings or else it will “ruin his night.”
How about his Sunday afternoon?
“Three missed [Lakers] layups already did that,” Finch quipped.
His team nearly ruined it even more for him by giving back a large chunk of its 27-point lead in the fourth quarter, but the Wolves hung on and did their part Sunday in their last-minute pursuit of a guaranteed playoff spot at the No . 6 seeds.
“We got a lot of things to talk about,” center Karl-Anthony Towns said. “We’re not happy and proud of showing we gave tonight as a team, as a team that says we’re going to be a playoff team. All in all, we did get the win.”
Unfortunately for them, the Nuggets also got the win over the Lakers and remained two games ahead of Minnesota with three to play for each team. The Wolves have the tiebreaker over Denver.
After a tough stretch of games, the Wolves got a relatively easy one in their last road game of the season against the rebuilding Rockets. Anthony Edwards had 33 points while Towns added 28.
The Wolves finished the night shooting 59% and simply outscored Houston, which shot 57%. The Wolves cruised to a win — maybe a little too much — as Houston cut it to eight late, but got no closer until the very end.
“We just wasn’t in the game no more,” Edwards said matter of factly.
That happened because most of Sunday was a cakewalk on the offensive end through three quarters. The Wolves posted some impressive offensive numbers in the first half – 66% shooting and 80 points.
“For as much as we’re happy about the way we were scoring the ball efficiently and everything, we have to also understand we didn’t play defense to our standards,” Towns said. “We won this game off the pure fact that we were scoring more.”
Edwards had 23 points of those, with several coming above the rim. Edwards gave them a momentary scare in the second quarter as he hobbled back to the bench and fell to the floor in pain. He said he turned his ankle “a little bit.”
“My leg got caught on the floor I guess,” Edwards said.
The athletic training staff took a look at his leg but after a few moments, “I was Gucci,” Edwards said.
A few minutes after that he was flying to the hoop for another loud dunk.
The Wolves coasted through the third quarter all while still shooting 66% and, by the end of the quarter, held a 116-92 lead.
They Wolves tried their best to give the game away in the fourth with careless basketball and not much effort on the defensive end in the period. Houston cut it to eight multiple times, but the Wolves had put them in too large a hole.
“We did enough to give ourselves a cushion and survive a scary fourth quarter,” Finch said. “Long road trip. We got a split [2-2]. Keep ourselves alive and in the hunt for where we’re trying to go.”
Added Towns: “All we need is wins. No matter how it comes. How ugly, how nice. How cute or how bad. Just get the win and then put ourselves in the position.”
Despite the late slippage, the Wolves did what they had to do in a game they had to have if they want to avoid the play-in tournament. The only problem as they enter the last week of the season is they need a lot of help from others, no matter how well they may play.