NEW YORK – The last time the Timberwolves took the floor in Brooklyn, the state of the franchise couldn't be much different and similar at the same time.
The Wolves opened last season at the Nets with a roster that was over 75% different from the one that took the floor Monday in a 112-107 loss at Barclays Center.
As with any new season there was mystery but also optimism about where the team might be headed. The Wolves came away with a surprise victory in overtime that night for coach Ryan Saunders in the first game of the Gersson Rosas regime.
It had seemed like a new day for the Wolves, but they're still trying to recapture the high and hope of that night.
Like then, the Wolves are still a franchise with a lot of unknowns and there have been very few answers in the last 18 months. This Wolves team entered Monday coming off one of the worst losses of the Rosas regime Saturday to Houston, and there was an air of inevitability before tipoff with the championship-contending Nets sitting across from them. The question wasn't whether the Wolves would lose, but how bad would it be?
The Wolves actually left Barclays Center feeling a lot better about themselves than they did coming in, but like any moral victory the Wolves have had, the question will be if this was just a fleeting performance or something upon which they can build.
"I said two games ago against Houston we didn't deserve it," center Karl-Anthony Towns said. "This is one of the nights we deserved it."
The Wolves certainly had a chance. They trailed most of the night and were down 108-98 with 2 minutes remaining before Anthony Edwards (23 points, 10 rebounds) ignited that final run. Edwards grabbed an offensive rebound for a put-back, then had a steal and breakaway to pull the Wolves within 108-107. They would have a chance to take the lead, but Edwards would miss and a Malik Beasley three to tie also came up short, and it left the Wolves taking the consolation that was Monday after the debacle Saturday.
"We talked about it beforehand just to be more competitive as a team," coach Chris Finch said. "Be more competitive with the ball in front of us and I thought we did that tonight. We did a great job. Proud of the effort. Good fight back, good step forward for us."
The Wolves lauded the defensive effort of rookie Jaden McDaniels, who had the task of guarding James Harden most of the night and Kyrie Irving (27 points) at some other moments. Harden finished with 38 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds though not all of that came with McDaniels on him and McDaniels did finish with four blocks.
"Just trying to make the game a little more difficult for him," McDaniels said. "He's going to make shots and things like that, just trying to get under his skin a little bit."
Towns has often decried the Wolves taking moral victories like the one they seemed to pull off Monday. But Towns was in a good mood for another reason — he was able to play in front of his father Karl. Sr. and other family members, who had a suite at Barclays Center and would cheer loudly, filling their part of the arena every time Towns scored. They got 31 points worth of cheers.
Towns said his late mother Jacqueline would often "make her presence known" by cheering Towns on before games near the court while his father was more reserved. On Monday Karl Sr. took that place near the floor.
"It affected me because my mom always did that," Towns said. "My dad was never the one to make his presence known. … It's the first time really having my family watch me play in person. When I see my dad, it's like, 'Where's my mom? She's going to come.' And obviously, she's not going to show up. So that affected me, but I go out there and play the best I can for this team."
Towns and the Wolves did their best against one of the best in the NBA.
Like many other nights it wasn't quite enough, but it was better than Saturday and they could live with that for now.