Wolves still feel aggrieved by officiating

The Timberwolves’ shorthanded roster of players hung with the Los Angeles Lakers for three quarters of Sunday’s game before Lakers center Anthony Davis finally started to flex his muscles against the suddenly undersized Timberwolves’ front court, which ignited a Lakers run in the final quarter that ultimately sealed the victory.

The Wolves were down four rotation players against the Lakers, their third game in four nights. No shame in dropping that one on the road to a full-strength Lakers team that is in the middle of the fight for play-in positioning. It was clear Minnesota was simply outmanned, and that was really all there was to it.

And yet, when speaking to reporters, Wolves guard Anthony Edwards chalked up the fourth quarter result to “they got calls and we didn’t. It’s that simple.”

“It’s tough every night when we don’t get to the free-throw line as much as the other team. When one player shoots more free throws than your entire team (Davis shot 13, the same number as the entire Timberwolves team), it’s tough. It’s tough to compete,” Edwards said. “When you miss a shot and they’re going to the free-throw line every time down the floor, it’s tough, man.”

Another day, another instance of Minnesota assigning some of the blame to the officials. NBA players rarely think the referees do a sensational job in any given game. On-court complaints are frequent. But public cries to the media are often reserved for select evenings when teams feel as though they were truly aggrieved — perhaps a couple of times a season.

When Edwards spends more than 50 percent of his postgame availability on the topic just one game after Rudy Gobert suggested the integrity of the officials may be compromised by sports gambling — which, paired with a late-game gesture, led to a $100,000 fine — the comments can begin to fall on deaf ears.

It is the consistency of the complaints that seem to at times be an issue for the Timberwolves. It’s clearly something the Wolves are thinking about on a regular basis. Edwards’ frustration is evident on the floor. The guard has 12 technical fouls this season. If he accrues four more, he’ll be suspended for a game.

Minnesota has also taken a number of ill-advised technical fouls this season. Gobert’s tech against Cleveland allowed the Cavaliers to tie the score with 27 seconds to play. Kyle Anderson picked one up from the bench with 86 seconds left in regulation against Chicago, gifting the Bulls a point in a game that also ended up going to overtime.

Edwards delivered numerous comments after a win over Oklahoma City in January in which he said the Wolves were playing “8 on 5” and that the game “wasn’t fair.” He was caught by cameras after the game on the floor using “cheating” as an adjective to describe the officials.

Gobert often leads the charge with his postgame comments. After Minnesota fell to Sacramento in November for just its third loss of the season, the center said there were “a lot of weird calls” in the game.

“I’m sorry, but I’ve got to say it. I’ve been in this league a long time, and some things sometimes don’t make sense to me. It is what it is,” he said. “I get punched in the throat on a rebound and there’s no call, and then they get a cheap foul on the other hand. … That’s why I always ask the officials; we either play physical or we don’t. We can’t just have one guy get punched in the throat and then have somebody get fouled right away. Same thing with three seconds. An incredible three-second call at the start of the fourth quarter. I’ve never seen that before. Then (Sacramento player) Javale McGee is in the paint for 10 seconds. I don’t want to put an emphasis on that. It’s not why we lost the game. But I’ve been in this league a long time, and it’s weird.”

Then, when the Timberwolves lost to Sacramento again a couple of weeks ago, Gobert lamented the lack of illegal screens called against the Kings.

“Which is pretty impressive given some of the things that they call,” he said.

The Timberwolves were upset when Joel Embiid shot 18 free throws against them during a 51-point performance in December, after which Edwards said, “There’s nothing you can do. You can’t put a finger on him.”

And Gobert was equally as frustrated by the way he was officiated throughout that entire stretch of road games.

“I’ve been in this league a long time, it doesn’t seem fair, it doesn’t seem natural, especially with the things I was able to accomplish in my career, me coming in the game and getting two quick fouls like that, with everything that they do to me on the other end, it’s weird. It’s really weird,” Gobert said. “There’s some things like that, I guess we’ll never know, never understand. And I don’t want to focus on that. I don’t want to put my attention on that, but it’s really affecting our team when I have to sit two minutes, three minutes into the game. Coming back with two fouls and try to be me, but it’s hard to be you when you got three guys waiting to take you out of the game as soon as they can.”

The NBA noted the fine levied Sunday against Gobert “takes into account Gobert’s past instances of conduct detrimental to the NBA with regard to publicly criticizing the officiating.”

Officiating is frustrating in sports because it is such an imperfect science across all levels. Sometimes, those frustrations will be aired. And, when used in the proper moments, there are times when comments can deliver an impactful message.

But the Timberwolves must be careful to not be the team simply known for always acting as the aggrieved.

That won’t get them anywhere.

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