Thoughts on a sporting disaster:
DOUBLE CHOKE: The uniqueness of the agony inflicted on an over-capacity crowd announced at 19,634 on Thursday night at Target Center was not that the Timberwolves choked in the 104-95 loss to Memphis, but rather that they did so twice.
Our pro teams choke routinely around here. For instance:
The Vikings' defense performs fiercely and against all odds on a frozen day at the Gophers' on-campus stadium in January 2018, holding down Seattle and quarterback Russell Wilson on a day the Purple offense did almost zero, and then Blair Walsh heads out there and misses a 28-yard field goal, allowing the Seahawks to win 10-9.
That's an easy-to-understand, singular choke.
But this was a Double Choke. First, the Timberwolves went the final 5:45 of the second quarter without a point, allowing what had been a 26-point lead to shrink to 51-44 at halftime.
Then, they took advantage of a horrible stretch of Memphis play in the third quarter to build the lead back to 25, before shrinking to non-competitiveness in the fourth quarter.
Karl-Anthony Towns was AWOL — whether on the bench with stupid fouls or on the court without the ball — through both of the collapses.
As Double Chokes go in recent times, the comparable event would be the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC title game vs. Cincinnati in January. And like KAT on Thursday, star quarterback Patrick Mahomes was the main cog in the Chiefs' twin collapse:
First, with an idiotic play near the goal line at the end of the first half, then with blunders both near the end of regulation and at the start of overtime.
Kansas City blew the biggest lead ever — 18 points (21-3) — in an AFC title game. The Timberwolves blew two enormous leads. And the stars, Mahomes and KAT, shrunk in those moments.
You can say the stakes cannot be compared, a trip to the Super Bowl vs. a 2-1 lead in a first-round playoff series. But only until you take into account the Timberwolves' status as an NBA franchise.
They have been a joke for long stretches, and this was the team to allow the Wolves to escape that, and now after Thursday, there are more basketball fans around the nation — and the world, really — laughing at them than ever.
WHEN IT WAS LOST: The Timberwolves had an 83-62 lead and possession with 52 seconds left in the third quarter. The Grizzlies had been throwing the ball all over and basically seemed resolved to their fate.
The Wolves' strategy seemed obvious. Hold the ball long enough to limit the Grizzlies to one possession — put up a shot with 30 seconds left, let Memphis do its deal, and then run out the clock.
Instead: the Wolves decided to play fast. And Jaden McDaniels wound up with the ball three times, gave it up three times, and Memphis cut the lead to 83-67, and got interested again.
Those last 52 seconds of the third were when point guard D'Angelo Russell should have had the ball, not the over-amped McDaniels.
PAT BEV, OPEN FOR A REASON: Patrick Beverley re-entered with 5:42 remaining in the game. The Wolves were down 90-88 when Beverley was open with 5:03 left. He took the three-pointer and missed.
The Wolves were down 93-90 when Beverley was open again with 2:59 remaining. This time, he took a 23-footer and missed. And when all was lost, with 45 seconds left, Beverley fired again and missed.
You know why you're open down in that corner, Pat Bev? Memphis wants you to be. Face it, team emotional leader: There's no guard the Grizzlies would rather see firing threes in game-deciding moments than you.
CELEBRATION PLIGHT: My belief is the 2006 Twins, a team that went 71-30 to finish the schedule, damaged their chances by hosting two over-the-top, champagne celebrations on the season's final weekend — first, clinching a postseason spot, then surpassing Detroit on the closing Sunday to win the AL Central.
Two days later, at noon in the Metrodome, the playoffs started vs. Oakland. The Twins appeared lifeless, were dominated by the A's Barry Zito, and off to their traditional three-loss sweep — this time against a team to which they were superior.
And Mike Zimmer has contended the Vikings' flat, awful 38-7 loss to Philadephia in the NFC title game on Jan. 21, 2018 could be traced partially to an overdose of euphoria that went on for days after the Keenum-to-Diggs Minneapolis Miracle.
And even though the Timberwolves recovered from the absurdity of their celebration after the play-in victory to win Game 1 vs. Memphis, this now has the look of an over-emotional team that gives itself too much credit during the highs and can't handle the lows.
Charles Barkley was right about a few things last week, as it turns out, including that the Wolves shouldn't have been "kissing babies'' after a play-in win.
TYUS WOULD BE NICE: Tyus Jones left the Timberwolves and signed a three-year contract with Memphis in July 2019. I wrote a column last week on hardcore Wolves fans, and one of those was Rob Shelquist, law firm partner, and Minnesota's Mr. Basketball for 1982 out of Irondale High School.
When assessing this Wolves team, one item mentioned by Shelquist was the decision to allow Jones (Mr. Basketball, 2014, Apple Valley) to walk away.
"I thought Tyus was a very good backup point guard,'' Shelquist said. "The 14-16 minutes a guy like that plays can be the difference between winning and losing. I don't know why the Wolves just let Tyus leave.''
You don't need local favoritism to agree with Shelquist's assessment, not after seeing Jones' impact on the past two Memphis victories, and particularly hitting a couple of big shots during the Memphis comebacks.
Yes, plural — both of them in the Wolves' historic Double Choke.