Even as the Timberwolves led for most of three quarters on Monday night, the familiar and lingering sense of dread was present in the air over Target Center, even if Halloween has passed.
That dread echoes in the back in the Wolves' collective mind to say anything that could go wrong will, and though it was largely absent through the first five games, it came roaring back in a big way in a 115-97 loss to the Orlando Magic.
The Wolves have designs on making a leap into the play-in tournament this season. Monday showed they might not be off the ground.
The same Wolves team that beat the defending champion Bucks on the road has also lost at home to the Pelicans and Magic, who have won one game combined against opponents other than the Wolves. Not many teams with designs on making the playoffs let that happen. The Wolves have now lost two in a row.
"I feel like we're still stuck on the Milwaukee game," guard Anthony Edwards said. "I feel like that's our problem right now. Came out of there with a win and we think we good now. It's just one game."
The now 2-6 Magic pulled away during a 43-19 fourth quarter in which the Wolves (3-3) seemed resigned they were going to lose, even though they held a six-point lead entering the quarter.
Their defense, which has otherwise been a bright spot this season, offered little resistance as Orlando caught fire from the outside, specifically Cole Anthony, who scored a game-high 31 points and hit his first four shots of the quarter. Later, Franz Wagner (28 points) hit a pair of threes and brother Moe shook the crowd with a thunderous dunk over Jarred Vanderbilt to mark the unofficial end of the night.
"Everybody was done," Edwards said. "I told them when I got checked in at like the eight-minute mark, 'Let's pick the energy up.' Everybody seemed like they were sad.
"Like, the game ain't over, bruh."
The Wolves already had made up their minds it was.
"It was one of those situations where our lack of shotmaking is bleeding over into our defensive intensity," coach Chris Finch said. "We can't have that. We've been playing really good defense no matter what's been going on out there on the floor. [Monday] we kind of let go of the rope a bit there."
The Wolves, who were already without Patrick Beverley (left calf soreness), lost guard D'Angelo Russell (1-for-8, three points) to a right ankle injury at halftime. Finch said he did now know how long Russell might be out. The offense has sputtered this season with Russell and was directionless with him playing the first half. Finch said the offense wasn't "functioning on a high level" but thought the Wolves were getting some good looks. They shot 37% overall, 14 of 51 from three-point range.
Karl-Anthony Towns, who was favoring his right thumb most of the night, had 23 points on 17 shot attempts to go with 16 rebounds. Edwards had 24 on 10-for-22 shooting, while former Minnehaha Academy star Jalen Suggs had 15 for Orlando in his homecoming.
"It's funny that the fourth quarter is what we struggle in and was the one thing we never got to reach in the preseason," Towns said. "First couple games, viable opponents, great opponents, but we never got to the fourth quarter. Seems that every time we have a fourth-quarter game, we're struggling a lot."
After their first bad loss against the Pelicans, Edwards struck a commanding tone and said he, Russell and Towns had to be better. On Monday, he wasn't as disturbed and said the shots will fall. But he felt the Wolves were too high on themselves and Monday was a reality check.
"I feel like we got swag, but we got too much swag right now," Edwards said. "We think we done done something. We ain't did nothing."