Timberwolves suffer embarrassing loss to Charlotte on night where Towns scores 62

Minnesota has changed the narrative surrounding the organization this season. It took over the top spot in the Western Conference by bringing a serious brand of basketball every night.

The Timberwolves defend, they play hard. They respect the game.

But, on Monday, they reverted back to old ways.

And, thus, the Timberwolves were back to being the butt of the joke.

On a night where they hunted shots for three and a half quarters for Karl-Anthony Towns — who bested his own franchise record by scoring 62 points — and played zero defense, Minnesota fell 128-125 to Charlotte at Target Center.

The Timberwolves got, as coach Chris Finch noted, “exactly what we deserved.”

“I mean, it was an absolute disgusting performance of defense and immature basketball,” Finch said. “This is what happens when you have that type of approach.”

Charlotte entered the evening with the worst net rating in the entire NBA, and as losers of 18 of its previous 20. The Hornets have a strong argument for worst team in the League.

But Minnesota treated the game like a lunchtime run at Life Time. The Hornets didn’t play defense, so why should they? So even as Towns scored 44 points in the first half — another franchise record — the Hornets kept pace with offense of their own.

“I mean, what (Towns) did was incredible, and what he did, I’ve never seen before,” Rudy Gobert said. “But a mature team would keep the poise. And we were just celebrating every quarter like the game was over.”

The offense Minnesota was playing throughout — with everyone just going out of their way to get Towns shots — was what you’d expect if a player was stuck on 48 with a minute left in the game in which the team led by 30.

Anthony Edwards flat out declined to shoot for much of the night, instead choosing to bump up his assist tally while focusing on getting Towns as many points as possible. His teammates followed suit.

“He hit his first six, seven shots, and I think everybody, pretty much, was just trying to see him go get 100 points,” Edwards admitted. “I know I was.”

It looked like Minnesota was going to get away with it, too. When the Wolves finally got enough stops in succession — via Hornets’ misses on open shots — they extended the lead to 15, the advantage they carried into the final frame.

But from there, they took the shenanigans to another level. Minnesota began force-feeding Towns even when it wasn’t there. That led to turnovers and Towns — who had seven giveaways — taking bad shots through double and triple teams.

And, predictably, the lead began to wilt.

“There’s lots of times where just because you’ve scored two or three or four baskets in a row, obviously we’re going to try to feed a hot hand or look for a hot hand,” Finch said. “But, at some point, we’ve got to get back to making a right play, doing the right things. There’s a lot of ways to be immature. And there was a lot of immature performances. … We totally disrespected the game.”

On both ends.

Finch implored his team throughout the night to turn up the defensive intensity. He warned his players at halftime that if they didn’t change their approach, they could miss a few shots, Charlotte could make a few, and the Wolves would suddenly be trailing.

How prophetic.

The Hornets went 14 for 22 in the final frame, while the Wolves made just six shots.

Edwards tried to turn the switch on late, but failed. He went 3 for 11 from the field for the game.

Down one with 12 seconds to play, Towns attacked another double-team, only to be stuffed at the rim. Charlotte then made two free-throws, and Towns last-gasp at a game-tying triple at the horn fell woefully short, sealing one of the more embarrassing losses in franchise history. And that’s saying something.

Edwards said the team talked in the locker room after the game, noting “we definitely gonna try and change lanes.”

“The hammer has been brought down,” Finch said postgame. “Just brought it down.”

Monday marked Minnesota’s first loss to a bottom feeder all season.

That’s how Towns’ record-setting performance will be remembered until someone bests it — it came in a loss.

A joke, indeed.

“I really just wanted to win. It hurts. You want to be able to have one of those nights on a win,” Towns said. “Having a night like that on a loss doesn’t feel very good, historic, whatever you want to say, doesn’t make me feel happy about the night we had.”