The Timberwolves came back home after having won two straight on the road. They got Thanksgiving off, then had two days of practice.
It didn’t help.
The Wolves’ home woes continued Sunday at Target Center in a horrific matinee. Playing a Memphis Grizzlies team that had dropped six straight and was missing leading scorer Ja Morant, the Wolves lost 115-107.
It was perhaps the most difficult loss of the early season.
“This game is … a loss we need to remember,” said center Karl-Anthony Towns, who led the Wolves with 21 points and 12 rebounds but needed 20 shots and was 1-for-10 on three-pointers.
“For us, being a playoff team, this is kind of a traumatic loss. We got to get back to the drawing board tomorrow. We came in with a lot of momentum, and we had three days off. We shouldn’t have played with the energy we had.”
Energy was kind of the buzzword about a game, in front of a fairly quiet announced crowd of 12,276, in which the Wolves were able to put together short runs but couldn’t keep their momentum going. Not against a Grizzlies team — now 2-0 vs. Minnesota this year — that played harder from start to finish.
“Very disappointing,” Wolves coach Ryan Saunders said. “In the NBA you have to play every game. And you don’t want to say it’s a game you should win, but we’re getting guys back. I felt good going into this afternoon. Credit to Memphis. They played really hard. They executed, they were good. We lacked energy, big time.”
Much like the Wolves’ loss in Memphis in November, the Wolves were outdone by Dillon Brooks, who scored 12 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter. And by a Memphis team that shot 16-for-40 on three-pointers. Seven Memphis players scored 12 or more points. Tyus Jones, in his homecoming and starting for the injured Morant, scored 12 points with seven assists.
Andrew Wiggins scored 18 for the Wolves but was 1-for-6 on three-pointers and 2-for-10 overall in the second half.
The Wolves (10-9), now 3-7 at home, have lost five straight at Target Center.
“You’re always more comfortable at home,” Saunders said. “But we’ve got to guard against being too comfortable, I guess. We talked in the locker room after the game. We’ll all examine maybe what our routines are at home and see if changes can be made. Because we’ve got to get right. These fans deserve some good outings here.”
Even with all that, there were chances. The Wolves were down eight with 6:40 left in the third quarter until Jarrett Culver scored five points in a 15-3 run over three minutes that ended with Towns’ three-point play that put the Wolves up five.
But Memphis ended the quarter with a 15-3 run of its own. Down nine with 7:03 left in the game, the Wolves rallied to within four. Two minutes later the Grizzlies’ lead was back to 10.
“We’re just not playing as hard at home,” Wiggins said. “We’re getting outrebounded. We let them get a lot of offensive rebounds. A lot of little things.”
Put it all together and you have a low-energy game in front of a relatively small home crowd.
“It’s been like that since I’ve been here,” Wiggins said when asked about the low-key crowd. “But we can’t depend on them to give us energy. We’ve got to bring our own energy.”