Poor chemistry and inconsistent play finally caught up with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Owners of the best record in the Western Conference a season ago, the Timberwolves will try to shake off the disappointment of missing the playoffs for the first time in nine years as they visit the New Orleans Hornets.
Minnesota was eliminated from the playoff race with a 109-94 loss to the Seattle SuperSonics on Sunday, giving Memphis the eighth and final spot in the West.
“It’s tough to put into words (to describe) a lot of what went on this year,” said Wally Szczerbiak, who scored 16 points. “We tried to make a come back down the stretch, but it just wasn’t in the cards.”
Since last Sunday, a Memphis win or a Timberwolves loss would have snapped Minnesota’s streak of consecutive playoff appearances.
The Timberwolves beat Golden State and Utah last week while Memphis lost to Denver, San Antonio and Houston. On Sunday, the Wolves’ luck finally ran out.
“Everybody’s disappointed,” coach Kevin McHale said. “You can’t come into the season with the expectation level we had and then have the season we had.”
The Timberwolves had nearly everyone was back from the team that lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals last year. But they never seemed to find the same formula for success, leading McHale to fire college buddy Flip Saunders as coach in February in an effort to turn things around.
The move paid only small dividends as the Timberwolves continued to play far below their potential.
“We were victims of our own success,” Minnesota forward Kevin Garnett said before resisting the urge to make spot judgments after such a disappointing loss. “I’m kind of frustrated right now, so I don’t like to answer from the heart at this point. It’s been a hard year.”
The Timberwolves can take their frustrations out on the woeful Hornets on Monday. New Orleans, which has lost seven straight, is coming off a 94-89 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.