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After exhausting six-week stretch, Wolves get time to rest ... and practice

Orlando Magic forward Wesley Iwundu (25) drives to the basket as Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jamal Crawford (11) defends during the second half of a game last month. Kim Klement / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS—When he saw the yawns, Timberwolves guard Jamal Crawford knew his feelings were legitimate. Going from game to game, always traveling or playing and barely practicing or resting, Crawford felt like he was getting tired.

Then he'd see the other people who travel with the team, as well as the non-players in the organization, and they, too, looked exhausted.

"I'm like, 'OK, I'm not crazy for knowing I'm a little bit tired, guys are a little bit tired,' " Crawford said. "I can really tell when I look around and see other people (tired)."

It's hard to blame anyone for feeling fatigued after the stretch the Timberwolves just endured. Minnesota just played 24 games in 43 days. Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said he's never seen a stretch like that. Thibodeau said Saturday marked the closest thing the Wolves have had to a full-on practice since Jan. 13.

To Minnesota's credit, it more than survived the barrage of games, going 15-9 in the stretch.

"It's what we had to deal with it," Thibodeau said, "so we dealt with it in a way in which we felt would be most effective."

That included a lot of work in hotel ballrooms on the road, where Minnesota would go through lengthy film sessions before executing slow-mo walkthroughs on a taped-off court. Every day, while the Wolves weren't practicing per se, Andrew Wiggins said they were learning, seeing what they were doing well and what needed improvement.

"It's not like we're going full speed," Wiggins said. "It's more like mental stuff, being prepared, knowing other team's plays and our players, counters, things like that."

Crawford said basketball is a mental exercise, anyway. But a lack of gym time is never a good thing for players.

"It's just a little bit tougher, because you're not doing it at game speed or going through it at game speed," he said. "And sometimes just sniffing the gym, even if you don't do much, but smelling the gym, getting a little sweat in I think is always good."

Taj Gibson said there were times when he didn't feel the busy stretch was wearing on the Wolves, "but it did." That was evident last week, when Minnesota dropped a road contest to the lowly Atlanta Hawks. The next night Minnesota played fairly well in Toronto but couldn't top a good Raptors team while on short rest.

"We were just so on a roller coaster mentally," Gibson said. "It was tough. You've got no practices, you've got games coming left and right, not enough rest, you're constantly just seeing different matchups."

Still, Gibson is confident stretches like the one Minnesota just endured will only help it get better. The Wolves get more practice time Thibodeau has yearned for. While they took Sunday and Monday off, they're scheduled to practice Tuesday and have a stretch in March in which they have five days between games.

Gibson admitted having practice team is "going to be weird."

"But I think we'll need it, because at times we haven't run a lot of different plays, lot of different sets," he said. "So it kind of knocks your rhythm off a little bit."

Gibson said that lack of rhythm and timing has hurt the Wolves late in some close games, when they haven't executed late-game situations, after timeout plays or out-of-bounds sets as well as they would've liked.

"And that hurt us," he said. "So it's good to touch back up and get guys feeling 110 percent."