Brandon Ingram got the ball out of a sideline game with three seconds left, got up from 26 feet and fired off.
With a single shot, Minnesota’s hectic rally down the stretch Tuesday in New Orleans was doomed. Despite Anthony Edwards’ 20 points in the fourth quarter almost saving the Timberwolves from themselves, all the Wolves were left when the buzzer sounded like a deserved “L,” falling 128-125 in New Orleans to snatch Minnesota’s four- battle victory series.
“Overall as a unit, I did not feel that we were locked in from the beginning to the end. Deserved to lose this one. Last second shot. we deserved to lose this one, said Patrick Beverley. “They beat us every 50-50 ball. They played harder than us, played at more pace than us. Played more physically than us. We complained a lot.”
It’s only Minnesota’s second loss of the year in 11 competitions against Western Conference’s bottom six teams in the current standings – with both defeats in the hands of New Orleans. The Pelicans have not played as a sub-.500 team lately. They are 12-10 over their last 22 competitions. Timberwolves coach Chris Finch cited the statistical foreplay, almost as a sort of warning to his team.
They did not care.
“We behaved like we were just going to go in and win and that would be sweet. We’re coming in and getting a winning streak of five games, that’s cool,” said Karl-Anthony Towns. “This is the NBA. You have to work for that. It’s not just a given. We came in here and behaved as if it would just be given to us this game. That team is fighting. We know what they’re doing. We know what they’re doing. We’ve played them three times and we’ve got great leads against them and they’ve come back every single time. I do not know what the confusion was. I do not know if we just suddenly thought we were Warriors, I do not know, but we have to play basketball our way.
They certainly did not during the first three plus quarters. Minnesota’s previous four games came against the short-handed Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City and Houston, the latter two, Beverley, aptly described as two of the worst teams in the NBA. None of the four have ever played a real center. Yes, the wolves beat them all. Finch called these “fat gains.” Beverley called them “trick games.”
And the wolves fell for the trap.
They were math for 40 minutes on Tuesday. The Wolves refused to return to the defense, handing over 28 fastbreak points. They were returned. The Pelicans (15-26) got pretty much what they wanted offensively, shooting 55 percent from the floor and 49 percent from the deep. Ingram finished with 33 points and nine assists.
It’s a miracle, frankly, that Minnesota was in the fight for the final shot. It was a product of the wolves’ attack, which shot 49 percent from the field. Towns scored 26 points. Anthony Edwards scored 20 of his 28 points in the final frame as he continued to deliver haymakers in an attempt to save the Wolves from himself. Malik Beasley hit six triples, including one with 12 seconds to play to pull the Wolves within one. D’Angelo Russells floats with four ticks to play gave a draw after Minnesota was behind double-digit in the fourth.
But it was all for nothing. Edwards or Finch even believed a lot in the glittering final frame of the second-year standout.
“I blame myself. I can not perform in the fourth and not perform in the first and second quarters,” Edwards said. “I did not struggle to get into a rhythm, I just did not play at all. It would be different if I took pictures. I did not take shots, I was not aggressive, I did not act. I did nothing. I was just out there. ”
Edwards found a way to switch in the fourth, just like his teammates, but it was too little, too late. Another lesson the Timberwolves had to learn the hard way. Also, it’s a lesson Minnesota (20-21) thought they had learned by now. The wolves are not good enough to win battles without maximum effort.
“I just think they came here (without) being willing to put the work in early,” Finch said. “We were looking for shortcuts.”
It’s simply not a route the Timberwolves can take if they plan to reach their desired destination in the playoffs.
“We talked about it (Tuesday) morning. We talked about that we always get to four games, but we can never get to five, so we have to be the same team as we have been all year, or we have to be different “Should we raise our standards?” Cities said, “It didn ‘t look like we’re trying to raise our standards, so we have to go back to the drawing board, start a whole new streak and finally reach the five once.”
Jaylen Nowell left the game in the first half with an ankle injury and did not return.