The Timberwolves have been playing catch-up so much in the last few weeks that it was easy to forget this team once had a problem hanging on to leads when it did manage to build them.
On Friday night, after building a 17-point lead in the second half, the Wolves got to discover if this problem went away over the past month, or was it still there, lingering like a latent allergy?
The answer was the latter in a 145-136 overtime loss to the Celtics.
The Wolves blew the lead so early in the fourth quarter they actually had time to make one of their patented second-half comebacks all in the same game. Boston took an 11-point lead with 3 minutes, 47 seconds remaining in the fourth on the back of a brilliant 53-point performance from Jayson Tatum, who lit up the Wolves first from inside and then the outside (6-for-10 from three-point range).
"I know obviously we didn't get the result we wanted. But to have that response and play at a high level, it's unfortunate we didn't come out with the win," center Karl-Anthony Towns said. "But I'm happy with the way we competed today and the way we competed through a lot of adversity."
The Wolves would come back and make a game of it thanks to D'Angelo Russell, who scored eight points in the final 90 seconds of regulation, including a three that banked in to tie the game 124-124 with 9.7 seconds left.
Boston overwhelmed the Wolves in overtime with threes from Jaylen Brown, who had 26 points, and Kemba Walker (17 points). The Wolves didn't have a third life in this one as Towns finished with 30 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Russell added 26 off the bench while Anthony Edwards had 24.
"They showed great composure all night," coach Chris Finch said. "We came out and we executed. We did a lot of things we talked about, but at the end of the day it was a tough night for us out there."
The Wolves got off to a blistering start and led Boston 39-25 after the first quarter. The normally energetic Edwards was somber after the game until he was explaining why the Wolves had such a strong start. It turns out the calendar was in their favor with the birthdays this week of point guard Jordan McLaughlin and assistant coach Bryan Gates.
"I think everybody was just ready," Edwards said. "JMac's birthday, coach B-Gates' birthday … I think everybody was just happy and trying to get a win for them."
The Wolves led by 17 in the third quarter when Tatum began dominating even more. He scored 10 quick points to cut Minnesota's lead to 92-90 with 1:10 in the fourth. Boston would surge ahead early in the fourth before the Wolves mounted their comeback.
The Wolves didn't feel much like discussing Tatum's dominance over them. Finch said simply, "He made threes and he got to the free-throw line 16 times."
Tatum made 15 of them. Edwards added: "He got hot. There was really nothing we could do."
Except try to answer, which Russell did in the fourth. If there was a bright spot late in the game it was the late-game execution for Russell, who was on a minutes limitation he exceeded in the overtime. This followed strong nights down the stretch in Monday's win over Sacramento and Wednesday's loss to Indiana.
"We obviously can compete and give ourselves a chance," Russell said. "The next step is getting off to a good start, putting the whole thing together and finishing these games."
The Star Tribune did not travel for this event. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the event.