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Dane Mizutani: Timberwolves can blame their immaturity for Game 4 loss to Nuggets

As they navigated a pivotal stretch on Sunday night at Target Center, the Timberwolves actually showed the heart of a champion. Though they trailed the Denver Nuggets by as many as 16 points in the early stages of Game 4, they never gave up.

They chipped away and chipped away, and eventually, cut the deficit to single digits on a rhythm 3-pointer by Anthony Edwards.

Then? Disaster.

Stunningly, in the span of 20 seconds before halftime, the Timberwolves let all their hard work fall by the wayside.

It started when Nikola Jokic caught them sleeping, finding Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for an open 3, which stretched the lead back to double digits. Seemingly holding for what would’ve been the final possession, Edwards got too casual with the ball, turning it over and leading to a fastbreak dunk by Michael Porter Jr. To make matters even worse, Jamal Murray intercepted an errant pass in the waning seconds and nailed a 55-foot backbreaker at the buzzer.

The stretch was immaturity personified from the Timberwolves and perhaps the biggest reason they suffered a 115-107 loss to the Nuggets. The series is now tied 2-2 heading to Denver.

“That hurt,” said Karl-Anthony Towns, who struggled through his worst game of the playoffs, finishing with 13 points on 5-of-18 shooting. “We made a good run to get ourselves back in the game and got some momentum. We put some juice in the building. Then they did what the defending champs do.”

It’s something the Timberwolves should take note of moving forward. They still have some work to do if they want to be talked about in the same category as the Nuggets. They aren’t there yet.

“This is a great team,” coach Chris Finch said. “They’re not going to beat themselves. We talked about that at the beginning of the series. It’s inexcusable to have a segment like that.”

You couldn’t help but watch the second half without thinking about all those points the Timberwolves spotted the Nuggets at the end of the first half.

Never mind that Edwards did everything he could, putting up 44 points on 16-of-25 shooting. Not even the Ant Man, who has looked the part of a legitimate superhero on the court at times in the playoffs, could save the Timberwolves from themselves.

Truthfully, the whole game would’ve played out differently if the Timberwolves could’ve closed out the first half without imploding. They likely would’ve been well within striking distance throughout the second half given the way Edwards was dominating anybody in front of him.

That wasn’t the case, however, because of an inexcusable lapse of judgement that led to an uphill climb the rest of the game.

“We gave ourselves plenty of chances to win that game tonight,” Edwards said. “We just made a few mistakes.”

Indeed. Maybe the worst part of that collapse before halftime was the fact the Timberwolves made the fan base believe they had outgrown that lesser version of themselves.

As recent as last week the Timberwolves looked the part of a legitimate contender, starting the playoffs a perfect 6-0, sweeping the Phoenix Suns in convincing fashion, and putting the Nuggets on notice with a blowout win.

That’s why the 20 seconds before halftime are so painful to stomach in hindsight. It seemed as if the Timberwolves had advanced to the next level in their pursuit of an NBA championship. It really did.

Now there’s at least a thought that it might have all been a mirage and the Timberwolves might be the same team they have always been.

You know? The immature bunch that TNT analyst Charles Barkley loved to clown on national television for being the opposite of smart.

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