While the Timberwolves were on the wrong side of a 114-106 score against Memphis on Friday in Game 6, they didn't lose the series then.
This series was lost in Game 3, when they blew two leads of more than 20 points, and in Game 5, when their fourth quarter lead evaporated amid of waves of bad decisions, contested shots and other misadventures.
Friday's frivolities punctuated what happened earlier in the series.
The Wolves took a 13-point lead in the third quarter only to watch Memphis cut it to one.
They led by 10 to start the fourth, but the Grizzlies cut it to 84-80 after too terrible possessions by the home team.
Following a turnover by D'Angelo Russell — moments after he re-entered the game and moments before he was removed — Dillon Brooks drained a three-pointer to tie the game at 97-97.
Not again. Was it really happening again? Yes, it was.
Desmond Bane's three put Memphis ahead 101-99 — for good — with fewer than three minutes remaining. The Target Center crowd was at full throat all night, but it was gutted with under a minute to go when Tyus Jones hit one from Apple Valley to put Memphis ahead 106-102.
Seconds later, the Wolves were sent into the offseason to reflect on their shortcomings.
Maybe the Wolves realized this at the final buzzer. Maybe it hit them during the postgame shower. Or driving home from the arena.
They are in a spot no squad wants to be.
They were the better team but did not advance.
They were a seventh seed in disguise, as they reached the playoffs playing their best ball of the season.
They led for lengthy stretches throughout the series. They pummeled the Grizzlies with big runs. Karl-Anthony Towns, who scored 18 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, was a matchup problem all series. But even fans groaned when he attempted, and missed, a 30-footer with a minute left. Anthony Edwards, who poured in 16 first-quarter points and finished with 30, was a star.
At times, Wolves basketball was lovely as players moved with and without the ball, found teammates for open shots and drove the lane with authority.
But there were too many moments when they failed to sustain pressure, made poor decisions, attempted contested shots or didn't get back on defense. The Wolves have been excellent at times during this series. They also have been tremendous at stopping their success. Russell was taken out for blocks of time on Friday as the engine ran more smoothly with Jordan McLaughlin at the wheel. This is something worth monitoring during the offseason as the Wolves look to upgrade the roster.
Before the game, fans got glow sticks and towels. Celebrities were everywhere, from former Wolves star Latrell Sprewell to Adam Thielen, P.J. Fleck, Cheryl Reeve and Ben Johnson. Everyone wanted a Game 7.
Even with Edwards' big first quarter, the Wolves led by just one point. And Memphis saved its best for last again.
"It comes with experience," Edwards said when asked about letting so many leads slip away. "[Memphis] was there last year, having many leads and letting leads slip away. We're just not as experienced as them."
At the end, the Grizzles prevailed, and fans politely applauded the Wolves.
Make no mistake, the program is headed in the right direction. The Wolves played .667 ball over the final 33 games of the regular season to finish 46 wins and then made their second postseason appearance since 2004. They made it safe for Wolves fans to come out of hiding. Target Center became a destination for entertainment again. They were raising a generation of fans who had no idea what it was like to experience playoff basketball.
Edwards hoped his teammates would spend the offseason improving their skills. He left out one thing. When they report for training camp, they'll have to work on finishing out big games.
"I told them, 'My gym is always open,' " Edwards said. "You all want to come to Ant camp, y'all come."