There was a moment midway through the second quarter of the Timberwolves' 123-104 loss to Memphis at Target Center on Monday night when Karl-Anthony Towns tried a no-look pass over his head to a cutting Ricky Rubio.
However, Rubio had stopped his cut a step short of where Towns thought he was going to be, and the pass ended up in a turnover.
The Timberwolves haven't had a lot of time to practice. It feels like just yesterday they selected Anthony Edwards No. 1 overall and traded for Rubio on draft night. And D'Angelo Russell and Towns didn't get much time to play together last year before Towns went out because of a wrist injury and then COVID-19 shut down their season.
For most of the night the Wolves looked like a team still getting to know each other — as in trying to figure out where their teammates might be on cuts to the basket. For instance, a few minutes after the misfired no-look from the post, Towns, facing the basket from the elbow, tried to hit a cutting Rubio near the rim, but his pass came up short for another turnover.
Towns and Rubio weren't the only ones having trouble getting on the same page. The Wolves had 25 turnovers and Memphis led by as much as 26 and was up 14 after one quarter.
"A lot of things we have to clean up," coach Ryan Saunders said. "That's part of what preseason is for."
Saunders was also less than thrilled with the Wolves' intensity level, something they can control no matter how long of a layoff they've had.
"I didn't love it tonight," Saunders said. " But part of what preseason is for is finding out more things and finding out other buttons to push with your group. We've got a locker room with guys that have good attitudes."
Aside from second-year wing Jarrett Culver, the Wolves looked like they needed help on defense. Memphis shot 54% in the first half on its way to 50% for the game.
If there was a sequence on that end that showed how the Wolves could use help, it came on the final possession of the first half when Memphis point guard Ja Morant got a mismatch against Juancho Hernangomez after a screen, took him off the dribble and slammed it in over three helpless Wolves under the basket.
Morant had his way with the Wolves on Saturday night and even more so Monday as he looked primed for the regular season with 17 points, seven assists and seven rebounds.
Veteran Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who signed a training camp prove-it deal with the Wolves, brought some needed defensive steadiness on a shaky night at that end and showed where he could add value to the roster, especially early in the season. He also took advantage offensively with 17 points (6-for-6 shooting) and put his best foot forward to stick around.
Russell fired away for the Wolves, finishing 7-for-18 for a team-high 19 points, and for a while in the first half he was the only one who could hit from the outside. The Wolves shot 40% as a team and 28% from three.
There were some small bright spots for the Wolves, like Culver's decent night defensively, especially in the first half. That carried over from a solid night on that end of the floor Saturday. Culver finished with 13 points to go along with four rebounds.
"I just feel like we're still getting to know each other a lot," Culver said. "So we're seeing people's strengths, what they play and what people do … in their games, so we've got to figure each other out."
Offensively, Edwards was aggressive and wasn't afraid to attack the basket or pull the trigger from deep, even if it didn't often go through the net. He finished with 12 points on 4-for-14 shooting.
Fans will forget a night like Monday if the Wolves come out next week and clean up their issues, but it begs the question if eight more days is enough time for a team to get familiar playing with each other.