The Minnesota Timberwolves came out flat Wednesday night in Indianapolis, digging themselves a 22-point hole against the severely shorthanded Pacers, a deficit they weren’t able to overcome in a 141-137 loss.
There haven’t — and won’t be — many times this season in which the Wolves take the floor with a notable talent advantage, but that was the case with Indiana playing without its top three players.
So what happened?
“Probably just them not having their main players playing and our guys thinking, ‘Well, it’s going to be a cakewalk,’ ” rookie guard Anthony Edwards said. “And we came out and next thing you know, we were down 20. We’ve just got to do a better job playing in the beginning of the game.”
Cakewalk? If any team is considered a cakewalk in this league, it’s the Timberwolves.
What right does the team with an NBA-worst record of 13-39 have to assume any game is going to be a easy win?
None, according to Timberwolves coach Chris Finch.
“I think it’s incredibly disrespectful for anybody in the league to think you’re going to come out and ‘cakewalk’ somebody else,” Finch said. “Because they want to win, too, and they have a lot of really good players. Regardless of what their names are, they have earned their way to the league, and we have to be respectful of that. Hopefully, this is one of the lessons that younger players will learn along their journey.”
There are so many lessons for this Wolves team still to learn. You wouldn’t think “don’t take teams for granted” would be one of them when your record is 13-39. But others include bringing a consistent effort and not being satisfied with such limited success as winning one game. Coming out of the gates with a little effort and intensity would be nice, too. The Wolves have led at halftime in just one game since Finch took over as coach on Feb. 22.
These are all reasons as to why Minnesota, with seemingly enough young talent to compete most nights, continues to lose so many more than it wins.
“We don’t point fingers here and we don’t make excuses,” center Karl-Anthony Towns said. “It’s my job to keep them organized. Obviously in the first half (Wednesday) we weren’t organized and weren’t playing the way we needed to play. I gotta be more demanding of us in the first quarter and maybe stop expecting it. I gotta start with me first and do my part and maybe step it up even more to stress the importance of coming out against any team and playing against any team with urgency and desperation. Not when we’re down by 20 points, not when we’re down by 15, not when we’re, excuse me, down by 22. We gotta play with that urgency right off the bat when it’s 0-0.”
Towns said the young guys need to develop their routine and find what consistently motivates them to play at a high level on a daily basis. Are the Wolves young? Yes, but as Finch noted Wednesday, they’re also now 52 games into the season, so no one is that inexperienced anymore.
The coach wondered aloud Wednesday if his team’s problems stemmed from immaturity or, perhaps, not taking enough of a “business-like approach.”
“Confidence is something that you give yourself by the way you play. Then on top of it, it’s going to be given to you by those around you, and I certainly believe in our talent of our players and our team. I don’t think that’s going to ever be an issue,” Finch said. “The confidence that they get in themselves from going out and playing well, continually, we talked (Thursday) a lot about how great players, great teams, great organizations have the ability to do things at a high level over and over and over again. And that’s what we need to do. And that can be an approach, that can be execution, that can be overall performance.”
It can be all of the above. For the Wolves this season, all of those boxes have remained unchecked.