More than three months gone, the Timberwolves still haven’t followed one victory with another, except when they beat Detroit and Utah consecutively to start the season.
On Friday, they followed Wednesday’s comeback victory over New York with a 120-108 loss at Memphis that kept them from a winning “streak” since the day after Christmas.
This time, the Wolves delivered no fancy fourth-quarter recovery as they had in beating both Houston and the Knicks this week.
At home on Wednesday, they trailed New York by 13 points with less than 10 minutes remaining and won by a point.
On Friday, they led Memphis 81-80 late in the third quarter and then were outscored 28-9 to end that quarter and start the fourth as the Grizzlies built a 23-point lead.
The Wolves never got the deficit back to single digits again.
After the game, Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns was asked why his team can’t follow success with success.
“It’s not being happy with one successful night,” he said. “We have to strive to get success every single night, build upon success, not getting complacent, not getting happy about one game.”
The Wolves’ most recent three victories all came after they trailed by double digits in the fourth quarter,
Not this time.
“Recently, we escaped some games,” Towns said. “We had some moments where, tell it like it is, we got lucky. Can’t expect to get lucky twice in a row.”
Towns’ 30-point, 15-rebound performance wasn’t enough. Neither was rookie sensation Anthony Edwards’ 22-point, six-assist game.
Not on a night when the Wolves played without point guard Ricky Rubio, who had back spasms after getting hit Wednesday.
Not on a night when the Grizzlies reversed course and turned into a three-point shooting team. They took 39 threes and made 19 of them after the Wolves game-planned to stop an opponent that scored 80 points in the paint the last time the teams met, in January.
“We’ve been making a priority to protect the paint,” Wolves coach Chris Finch said. “These guys had 80 points last time. They lead the league in paint points. Our goal was to protect the paint, and we knew they were going to get some shots.”
But as Towns said, “We also didn’t say give them 49 percent from three.”
Finch blamed a ball that didn’t move for that game-changing stretch in which his team went from a one-point lead to a 23-point, fourth-quarter deficit. The 14 offensive rebounds his team allowed didn’t help, either.
“The entire third quarter our ball movement dried up,” Finch said. “I thought at halftime we played really well. We had 17 assists and finished the game with 21. That pretty much says it all.”
It also didn’t help that Rubio was absent and replaced in the starting lineup by Jordan McLaughlin. Josh Okogie returned after five games sidelined by the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
“It hurt when you don’t have Ricky on the floor,” Towns said. “You have a true vet and someone who can fix a lot of holes just by his experience and the way he plays.”
And it didn’t help when rookie starter and defensive stopper Jaden McDaniels picked up his fifth foul early in the third quarter. Finch calls McDaniels a “kind of Swiss-Army knife defender” who guards everybody from James Harden to Julius Randle.
“Certainly, Jaden has been outstanding for us,” Finch said. Anytime we don’t have a guy on the floor like him, it’s going to hurt us. But again, it was our ball movement and our defensive rebounding that really hurt us.”
The Star Tribune did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.