One self-criticism the Timberwolves have had of themselves is that they often get too enamored of their own success. It's a bold claim for the team with the worst record in the league, considering there's not all that much success to admire in the first place.
Nowhere does that show up more than in the fact that the Wolves haven't won two consecutive games since winning the first two of the season. The Wolves had another chance to accomplish that Wednesday against an Indiana team that was missing several key contributors.
But they couldn't as Wednesday's game followed a familiar script — terrible start, followed by a scramble to come back. Once in a while that comeback is successful. More often it's not, like in this game when Indiana came away with a 141-137 victory.
Coach Chris Finch wasn't handing out pats on the back after the Wolves came back from 22 down to cut the deficit to two in the final minutes. There was more disappointment that the Wolves (13-39) put themselves in this too-familiar position.
"If we played the first 24 like we played the last 24, then this is a different conversation," Finch said. "We have to learn how to handle having one good game, and then starting the [next] one with the right mind-set. I just didn't think we had the effort to sit down and guard the ball, and that's evident when looking at their shooting percentages."
That would be 59% from the field and 50% from three-point range, with Aaron Holiday leading seven Indiana players in double figures with 22. The Pacers were without Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner and still buried the Wolves in a 22-point hole in the first half. Karl-Anthony Towns (32 points, 12 rebounds, six assists) and Anthony Edwards (27 points on 11-for-21 shooting) once again led the charge, but one that fell short.
"[It was] probably just them not having their main players playing and our guys thinking, 'Well, it's going to be a cakewalk,' " Edwards said. "We came out and next thing you know, we were down 20. We've just got to do a better job playing in the beginning of the game. … We've got to be better."
Finch said he thought the Wolves "felt a little low [on] energy" and didn't mind the opening few minutes when the Wolves and Pacers were jockeying for position on the scoreboard. Then the Pacers bench took over. T.J. McConnell had 19 points and 15 assists. There was Holiday, who hit all four threes he attempted, while his brother Justin (21 points) hit a few to keep the Wolves from coming all the way back in the fourth. Aaron Holiday's free throws iced the game with 8.4 seconds left.
"I feel like we show that we could play … staunch defense at any time, but always seem to want to do it when we're down by double digits," Towns said. "It's about coming out with that killer mentality right off the bat as a team defensively. … I think that we kind of plan the game to go 48 minutes, so we kind of lollygag. I'm just telling you my opinion."
Those who watch the Wolves on a regular basis might share that opinion.
It's one of the confounding things about the Wolves. They know they don't always start games well. They sometimes come out with a lack of energy and they know all this is a problem. But over and over again, it keeps happening.
"I guess for me I just got to do a better job of stressing how important it is to play with that urgency and desperation early on," Towns said. "I feel like I sound like a broken record, but we can't always be trying to play from 20 down."
It seems to be where they are most comfortable, for whatever reason.
"I don't know. Just immaturity," Finch said. "Not enough businesslike approach, maybe. I don't know. It's not like we have a team that's goofing around. … We just didn't have a will to guard the ball."
The Star Tribune did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.