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Timberwolves fall apart late in loss to Orlando

Apparently, one night in Oklahoma City did not suddenly fix all of Minnesota’s late-game woes. After a series of solid decisions down the stretch to score a big win over the Thunder on Monday, Minnesota was faced with that same situation four days later and reverted to a bevy of old tactics.

Anthony Edwards took an ill-advised technical foul and chucked up a series of bad shots. Minnesota committed costly turnovers.

And it all resulted in a 108-106 home defeat to Orlando.

Minnesota was outscored 28-18 in the final quarter after leading 88-80 after three frames. Minnesota went 5 for 20 from the field with just two assists over the final 12 minutes, with one of the makes coming on a meaningless Edwards triple with one second to play.

Orlando simply out-toughed and out-executed Minnesota (34-15) when it mattered most. That’s a constant issue for the Wolves, who have only sporadically demonstrated poise in the heat of the moment in recent weeks.

“For whatever reason, we just tend to make the game harder on ourselves,” Wolves guard Mike Conley said. “Every night, we’re going to be playing against teams that are going to play fast, they’re going to be physical, they’re going to give us their best shot and we’re not good enough yet to have that on and off switch where you can just choose when to do it. The consistency has got to get better.”

It generally starts with Edwards, who made a shot early in the fourth and then proceeded to shut down the offense by over-dribbling and taking and missing difficult shots.

“I got to stop holding the ball,” Edwards said. “Taking bad shots, I guess. Got to be better.”

A lack of ball movement leads to a lot of standing around, at which point even when Minnesota did find a few open shots, it couldn’t knock them down.

Such was the case with 30 seconds to play when, down two, Jaden McDaniels and Conley both had open 3-point attempts — neither went down.

On the other end, Minnesota had a shot clock differential — roughly five seconds — to where it could’ve played defense and tried to get a stop. But McDaniels inexplicably, intentionally fouled Paolo Banchero with nine seconds to play in the game and just four seconds remaining on the shot clock. Banchero made both free throws to essentially ice the game.

“The plan wasn’t to foul at all. The plan was to get a stop,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “I got confidence in the defense and somewhere it was miscommunication and we probably shouldn’t have fouled.”

All five Magic (26-23) players scored in double-figures, including St. Paul product Jalen Suggs, who finished with 15 points and six rebounds.

Rudy Gobert had 22 points and 16 rebounds for Minnesota, while Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns both scored 19 points on inefficient shooting nights.

The collapse late spoiled a game that started so well.

Minnesota delivered one of its most impressive offensive quarters of the season to open the game. The Wolves led 38-26 after 12 minutes thanks to a quarter in which Minnesota went 14 for 19 from the field — with 10 assists on its 14 makes — while going 7 for 8 from the line.

Things deteriorated from there.

“At some point, hopefully we all look ourselves in the mirror individually and get rid of all that stuff that hold us back as a team. Same thing. Ball gets sticky. We stop doing winning plays. Running back, hitting people on the glass. It’s the same story,” Gobert said. “Until we care, we’re going to keep losing those type of games.”

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