LOS ANGELES — The question facing the Timberwolves entering Saturday's game against the Clippers was how big would their hangover be a night after beating the Lakers.
This Wolves group has notoriously gotten too high on its own success, and had just 24 hours to come down from a convincing win over the other tenants at Staples Center.
The hangover was a serious one in a 129-102 loss that wasn't close after Los Angeles blew it open with a dominant 38-17 second quarter.
They were playing for the second time in consecutive nights, but the Wolves didn't have to travel, and they didn't have to game plan too much for their opponent, which they faced twice at Target Center just last week.
"Could be just not ready to play for whatever reasons," coach Chris Finch said. "It looked like we were out there performing, not really competing."
The Wolves could have played well and not won Saturday against a good Clippers team, but they didn't have to lose playing as badly as they did. That much was in their control.
For the third time this season, the Clippers left the Wolves with a lot of questions after another loss. The Wolves have shown some resolve when faced with steep deficits previously this season. This wasn't one of those nights.
The Wolves also continued a cycle they can't seem to break dating back to last season. They play well in a game, talk about how they need to play like that all the time, only to come out and fall flat most times in the next game. Then it can take them a few more to find the necessary focus for 48 minutes to win another one. Rinse and repeat.
"I feel like that's really been the problem with us as a team is how do we not get tired of success?" guard Josh Okogie said. "I feel like after we have good performances, we have to be able to put that game behind us and focus on the next one and try to go 1-0 every night."
It's part of the reason why this particular group of players has put together a win streak of two games or more only four times since the beginning of last season. They have now lost seven of eight.
"We didn't feel good after that losing streak, so our focus coming in wasn't offense, making shots. It was, we're going to do whatever we need to do to win this game because we're tired of losing," Okogie said. "I felt like that wasn't our mindset tonight. I feel like the way our team is set up, that's how we have to be every night."
After leading a third-quarter surge against the Lakers, Karl-Anthony Towns had just eight points on 3-of-11 shooting, and his night seemed to set the tone for the rest of the team. The Wolves finished this four-game road trip 1-3 and head home for four more this week.
"Wish we would've got the Memphis game, split the road trip," guard Patrick Beverley said. "We still have a lot of work to do and we're excited about that."
Things started fine enough. The Wolves trailed just 32-26 entering the second quarter. At that point, they didn't just let go of the rope, as they tend to say, they yanked it from its moorings and threw it to the ground. Their defense provided minimal resistance
A 25-8 stretch extended the Clippers' lead past 20 and it would grow as large as 27 by halftime and 31 in the third quarter.
"Every time we win big, we come out, take a couple steps backwards," said Anthony Edwards, who had 21 points. "But I mean we got to grow. We got to put that game behind us and go one game at a time and try to win every game."
And not just bask in the glow of their last win.