The thrill ride that is the Timberwolves season had it all Friday night.
An icy start, An electric third quarter, an amazing comeback. Defense that was, at times, stifling.
Down 19 in the second quarter and 16 early in the third, the Wolves had a 25-1 run from early in the third to early in the fourth — one that included an incredible baseline drive and dunk by Anthony Edwards at the end of the third quarter — to take an eight-point lead early in the fourth.
But, up six with 3:40 left, the Wolves were outscored 11-0 the rest of the way in an 86-81 loss to Toronto at Target Center.
"They just ramped up the pressure," Wolves coach Ryan Saunders said. "They hit a couple shots and it got them into a little bit of a rhythm. Then, our passing, we didn't find a good job finding guys or mismatches."
The bottom line is another loss in a winnable game. The Wolves (7-23) have now played 12 consecutive games decided by fewer than 10 points and are 3-9 in those games. Usually the problem is getting stops down the stretch. Friday it was getting baskets.
But this game had everything. The Wolves set season lows in scoring in the first quarter and the first half. At one point they were 1-for-20 on three-pointers. But spectacular defense held the Raptors (15-15) to 30 points over the second and third quarters. A 23-1 run to end the third quarter — a run capped by Anthony Edwards' memorable dunk and three-point play — had the Wolves up six entering the fourth.
It was a dunk both Jaden McDaniels and Jake Layman said was the they had ever seen in person — that would have been even more legendary had the Wolves won.
That lead grew to eight when Edwards opened the fourth-quarter scoring. Indeed, the Wolves were still up 81-75 when Karl-Anthony Towns scored with 3:40 left.
Over the final 220 seconds, the Wolves went 0-for-5 and had three turnovers as the Raptors swept past.
Pascal Siakam's dunk tied the game at 81 with 1:22 left. Terence Davis' corner three with 30.8 seconds put Toronto up for good.
Norman Powell hit six of 10 three-pointers for 31 points for Toronto, Fred Van Vleet had 12 and Davis had 11 off the bench. Towns had a 19-point, 13-rebound effort. Malik Beasley scored 13. Jordan McLaughlin had 11 off the bench.
The Wolves have proved themselves for stretch to be competitive. But they have struggled to get over the hump.
"It's kind of unfortunate," said McDaniels. "But it's something that coach preaches every day. We've got to play the whole 48. Just be super intense while we play defense … the fourth is different from the first, second and third. So it's a whole other level of intensity we've got to pick up."
It was Toronto — playing on the back end of the back-to-back games, and without Kyle Lowry – were the team that kicked it up a notch.
Layman — whose return to the rotation coincided with the Wolves third-quarter rally — said the competitive nature of recent Wolves games shows promise. "It would have been easy early in the second, when we were getting blown out a lot, to say, 'We're a young team, it's one of those years.' But no. Our team kept working. .. The ends of games have not gone our way recently. All we can do is learn from those mistakes.''
The Star Tribune reporter did not attend this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.