The Timberwolves came into their final three games of the season saying all the right things about how this would be a measuring stick for where they stood headed into the offseason.
After a competitive loss to a good Denver team on Thursday, the Wolves turned heel Saturday and looked like a team that would much rather be done with the season.
An ailing Boston team that has wobbled its way to the finish line walked away with a breezy 124-108 victory at Target Center.
The Wolves couldn't shoot — they were a woeful 5-for-37 from three-point range with only one starter, Anthony Edwards, hitting a three. Jayson Tatum had 26 to lead Boston while Karl-Anthony Towns had 24 for the Wolves. Edwards finished with 23 and the Wolves shot 41% for the game.
The loss represented a step backward for a team that had liked the progress it was making as the season closed.
"I thought we wasted a day that we could've used to build on our foundation, build our standard, build our culture," Towns said. "I think we let a day slide by today as a group where we didn't come out with the edge and discipline and execution needed to come out with a win."
The Wolves on afternoon start times — this one began at 1 p.m. — have not been a good mix all season, especially for Edwards, who has made no bones about how much he enjoys his sleep. But both teams have to deal with the lack of potential nap time and opponents have had few issues dispatching the Wolves during the day.
Coach Chris Finch wasn't pleased with the past few games.
"I thought it was a step back, just in approach," Finch said. "I told those guys I'm disappointed. I really wanted to finish the season strong with strong performances, let results be what they may. But these were not two good performances so far."
One of the Wolves' pet phrases has been that at times they "let go of the rope." That they let things spiral out of control quickly. It's a phrase that hasn't come up in recent weeks, but it did again from Ricky Rubio, who had four points.
"You can look at all the excuses, and they all may be valid, but it's about building," Rubio said. "We made a commitment to really finish strong. … Now with three games left we let the rope go. That's no excuse."
There's one more chance to rectify that — a night game against Dallas on Sunday. The game could change their lottery odds for the better, but it could also change their moods for the worse.
"It doesn't look like they're locked in to finish the season the way we wanted to, Finch said. "You'll have to ask them individually where they are. It's been a long season, been a long season for everybody. But at the end of the day, we're not a tanking team, so we wanted to finish the season with as much momentum as possible."