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Timberwolves are a young team that makes mistakes

Friday will show if they learn from them

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke (15) blocks Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jordan McLaughlin (6) from shooting the ball during the second half of Game 5 of the first round for the 2022 NBA playoffs Tuesday, April 26, 2022, at FedExForum in Memphis.
Christine Tannous / USA Today Sports
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On Thursday, Anthony Edwards described the Timberwolves as “a young team” that’s “learning as we go.” Both statements are true. And yet it doesn’t make Minnesota’s postseason mistakes any less perplexing.

Because when the Timberwolves coaching staff, led by head coach Chris Finch, shows players the film from Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against Memphis and can point out the same mistake over and over again, it suggests the “learning” aspect isn’t taking hold.

Ask Finch what went wrong in the fourth quarter Tuesday and he, rightfully, sounds almost annoyed when giving the answer.

“The offense is too many guys who want to go one-on-one,” he said. “We talked about that ad nauseum. Everybody wants to be the hero, and that’s not how you’re going to win these games.”

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In some ways, it seems early for such proclamations. The Timberwolves haven’t been to the second round of the NBA playoffs since 2004. This spring marked the first playoff experience for a number of key players on the roster, who are still in the infant stages of their careers. Going from that to championship is quite a leap.
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That’s been on full display in many of Minnesota’s losses this season. The clutch-time offense can be singled out as a reason for numerous regular-season defeats, as well.

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“We always do that at the end of the game,” Edwards said. “That’s just, that’s us.”

That’s the problem. Finch cited the late-game offense as a major issue within the first 20 games of the season, and yet despite constant harping, the players never truly changed their ways.

“It’s a little bit of a battle we’ve been fighting all year,” Finch said. “We have a lot of guys who want to close games. Those situations are basically like anything else, a matter of trust, a currency of trust.

“Right now I think we gotta go to a mentality, and we’ve talked about it, where the go-to guy needs to be the open man. But whoever has the ball in their hand has to create those situations by attacking with the mindset of finding rather than attacking with the mindset of shooting.”

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) is guarded by Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jarred Vanderbilt (8) as he shoots the ball during the second half of Game 5 of the first round for the 2022 NBA playoffs Tuesday, April 26, 2022, at FedExForum in Memphis.
Christine Tannous / USA Today Sports

Basically, Malik Beasley explained, the Timberwolves try to target Grizzlies guard Ja Morant. But whoever gets that matchup needs to understand that the right play isn’t always to attack Morant to score. Sometimes it’s to attack Morant to draw more attention and then find the open man.

“The play is not for you, usually, if you get that switch,” Beasley said.

That’s been a distinction Minnesota has struggled to make all season. The Wolves always tend to slow down in the final minutes of the game when they have the lead, they morph into an isolation offense and they tend to see their lead shrink, if not disappear entirely.

And then Finch is left to talk about the issue immediately after the game, and likely again after the following practice.

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Rinse, repeat.

At some point, even the coach may run out of answers. It’s one thing to be young and learning. It’s another to be young and repeating the same mistakes time and again.

“I mean, at this point we just have to keep trying to correct it. I mean, it’s hard to correct it when you’re out there every night,” Edwards said. “But, you come in and watch the film. I think we’ve come together and watched that last game and were like, ‘We can’t do this any more.’ So I think we’ll correct it (Friday).”

If not, they can try again next season.

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