Guard Ricky Rubio said all those blowouts the Timberwolves suffered at the beginning of the season haunted them in their 111-108 loss to San Antonio.
Rubio's logic went like this: The Wolves could have played in more close games, and they could have learned how to navigate in those tight situations, something you can't quite simulate in practice or a shootaround.
So after they blew a 16-point lead to the Spurs in the fourth quarter, the result shouldn't have come as a big surprise.
"We didn't put ourselves in that many situations early in the season because we lost so many games by way too many points," Rubio said. "But I think lately we're learning how to be in games, close games, but now we have to close out games."
The Wolves let that large lead fall through their fingers in a 20-2 stretch the Spurs had over 6 minutes and 21 seconds. During that time, coach Ryan Saunders called two timeouts to try and calm the Wolves and stop the Spurs' advance. They didn't have the intended effect.
Part of closing out close games is transferring what coaches and players say in those huddles to the floor. That process has been a problem, guard D'Angelo Russell said after Wednesday's game.
"It's hard to beat teams well-coached like that," Russell said. "We got to do everything in our power to not beat ourselves. Timeouts, dead ball, whatever it is, you got a million things going through your mind. It's hard to hear and go do right away. It's got to be scripted. You got to practice it. I think then the results will be better."
The Wolves had a practice to go over those mistakes on Thursday before playing a back-to-back set of games against Oklahoma City.
Saunders attributed some of it to the Wolves' youth.
"I don't know if it's a disconnect. I'd say that it's a learning process," Saunders said. "We just went through 45 minutes of script with guys playing different positions because sometimes that's where the disconnect could come from. ...
"Late in games it's a learning process for guys too who maybe haven't been in those situations in the NBA on how to pull the information from what's talked about in the huddle to executing."
Saunders pointed to the fact that Anthony Edwards was technically in the four spot with Rubio and Russell on the floor late in the game, a position he isn't accustomed to playing at the NBA level.
Echoing some of Russell's comments, Rubio said the Wolves have to script and better practice the kind of plays they want to run down the stretch.
"We could see that we were not ready to play in a close game and it showed," Rubio said. "We better figure out which plays we want to run at the end to know exactly where the ball has to be and who we're looking for. I think basically [Anthony Edwards] didn't touch the ball much in the fourth quarter."
Edwards didn't take a shot in the fourth quarter. Malik Beasley, the Wolves' best scorer Wednesday, had just two shots in the final five minutes. That happened in part because Russell said he wanted to be more aggressive in seeking his shot in the final minutes.
But it was difficult to properly run the offense because the Wolves were disorganized on multiple occasions.
"Defense is at an advantage now because you're trying to coach guys through where to be and where they're supposed to be and they're just loading up on defense," Russell said. "Watching other teams' offense, whoever it may be, it may be a little more crisp and just on point, I would say. That's our challenge in getting better."
It doesn't make nights like Wednesday any easier to take.