This time last year, the Timberwolves headed into All-Star break jubilant, dancing off the Target Center floor after they trailed Utah by 18 points but won on Luke Ridnour's floating runner at the final horn.
On Wednesday they trudged into a long weekend rest as losers for the 16th time in 19 games, 97-93 to the very same Jazz.
This time, they once again fought back valiantly late in the game from a double-digit deficit but never got close enough this time for a winning buzzer-beater or a departing dance.
Have you heard this one before?
"I thought we were going to pull it off," Wolves forward Derrick Williams said after delivering a 24-point, 16-rebound double-double that almost got his team back to even but not quite. "I thought we were going to get this game. I think we all did. Just have to believe and have a little faith."
The Wolves jumped to an early 20-10 lead against Utah, which beat Oklahoma City in an emotional victory at home Tuesday, then energized the Jazz by allowing a 14-0 second-quarter run and surrendered a 30-12 run that ended the third quarter and began the fourth.
All of which left them trailing by 15 points with less than seven minutes remaining before they twice got within a basket in the game's final 20 seconds thanks to a big run of their own.
This late comebacks that almost get there once were commendable. Now they're just getting repetitive.
"Well, I think that's who we are," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "We are not going to quit, but it is frustrating. We have to play and we have to go all out all the time."
This time, they were outdone in good part by two former Timberwolves: Al Jefferson's 20-point, 11-rebound double-double supplemented frontcourt mate Paul Millsap's 21 points in a duel with Williams at power forward. And Randy Foye's six fourth-quarter points -- he scored 10 all night despite a bruised thigh sustained Tuesday vs. the Thunder -- included making four consecutive free throws that kept the Wolves away in the final 16 seconds.
All that allowed the Jazz to head into the five-day break with a 30-24 record that's got them aimed squarely at the playoffs, even if they started the night with what Utah coach Tyrone Corbin called "running in mud."
The Wolves never could overcome that 84-69 deficit with 6:51 left, no matter how much they tried to make those final seven minutes more meaningful than the other 41.
Williams offered the kind of energetic, aggressive performance that far too often has been lacking in his young career, partly because of Ricky Rubio's marathon 40-minute performance that came one rebound shy of his first career triple-double.
Williams' game has been amped by Rubio's steady return toward being the player he was only a year ago. The two connected time and again Wednesday, with Williams scoring nine of his 24 points in the fourth quarter and Rubio producing an 18-point, 10-assist, nine-rebound, night while playing a season-high number of minutes.
Rubio reached those 40 minutes partly because Adelman played reserve guard Alexey Shved fewer than 11 minutes because he didn't respond well to Utah's typical physical play.
"I'll be in trouble with the medical staff," Adelman said as he concluded his postgame news conference and headed into that long weekend. "He played 40 minutes -- I just saw that, so I'm going to get out of town."