Timberwolves collapse again, this time to end their season in Game 6 loss
series was essentially determined by which team was not more talented — that might have been the Timberwolves — but mentally and physically tougher. That was the Grizzlies, in a knockout.
MINNEAPOLIS — Prior to this playoff series, no team in NBA history had blown two double-digit fourth quarter leads within the a single playoff series.
Minnesota just blew three.
That’s why the Timberwolves, who frankly out-performed the second-seeded Grizzlies for much of the first-round series, are done for the season after a 4-2 series loss.
Their final collapse came Friday in front of a raucous Target Center crowd, who did everything in its power to lift Minnesota up. It wasn’t enough, as Memphis downed Minnesota 114-106 to close out the series.
Once again, Minnesota folded when it counted most. This series was essentially determined by which team was not more talented — that might have been the Timberwolves — but mentally and physically tougher. That was the Grizzlies, in a knockout.
When times got tough, Minnesota repeatedly froze, settling for tough, contested jumpers.
“I thought composure-wise, we showed it in our shot selection in the fourth,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “It’s baked into our DNA right now, and we got to learn from this. We’re not all going to be able to save the day.”
That has been the Wolves’ problem since Day 1 of this season — something Finch repeatedly shouted from the rooftops. But sometimes it takes a crushing postseason defeat for players to truly receive the message.
“The great thing about this, it’s all about exposure. Everybody gets exposed,” Finch said.
Players have no way around seeing their warts after this series. They have a path to being a great team, but it will take far better habits.
Meanwhile, the fourth is when Memphis got going. Ja Morant went to the rim with reckless abandon, and Brandon Clarke crashed the glass with the force of 10,000 men.
Memphis made all the big plays when it mattered most. The Grizzlies are who they are — a relentless, physical team who comes at you for 48 minutes. That was evident every time when Minnesota seemed to have control late in contests in this series.
Tyus Jones missed a pair of open threes on one possession late, but Memphis grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds and still closed the possession with a score.
Then, with Memphis leading by just one point and 80 seconds to play, Minnesota suffocated Ja Morant on the perimeter until the end of the shot clock. That’s when Morant kicked the ball over to Jones, who wasn’t going to miss again. The Apple Valley product sent the dagger through the Wolves’ season, nailing a triple with just tenths of a second remaining on the shot clock.
There were plenty of bright spots for Minnesota. Jordan McLaughlin provided needed sparks for Minnesota at every crucial moment, stemming Memphis tides with big buckets, steals or assists. His play left Timberwolves coach Chris Finch with no choice but to go with the guard over D’Angelo Russell down the stretch.
Anthony Edwards showed up on another big stage, scoring 16 points in the first quarter alone. Jaden McDaniels played maybe the game of his career, scoring 24 points, including five triples. Those two rose to the big moment.
Maybe next time, they’ll bring the rest of their teammates with them.