Timberwolves blow double-digit fourth-quarter lead to undermanned Memphis

Minnesota was up 10 entering the fourth quarter Wednesday against a Memphis team missing its two best players.

The Timberwolves were well on their way to a second straight win that would have signaled a potential shift in the momentum of their season.

Instead, Minnesota reverted to form, getting outscored 38-17 in the final frame of a 118-107 loss to fall to 3-8 this season.

This was supposed to be the start of the Wolves’ soft part of the schedule. The Grizzlies were in the Western Conference play-in game last season but are currently without young stars Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson. So it was logical to assume the Timberwolves, at full strength with Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie back in the starting lineup, would impose their will.

That never happened. Even while building a 10-point lead through three quarters, the Wolves were careless with the ball and largely ineffective when Towns wasn’t on the floor. The scoring came from Minnesota’s big three of Towns (25 points), D’Angelo Russell (25) and Malik Beasley (28) — who combined for 78 points, marking the 15th time in franchise history the Wolves had three players score 25-plus points — and just about no one else. The Wolves had just 21 bench points to the Grizzlies’ 50.

That still looked like it’d be enough against Memphis, but the Grizzlies blitzed the Wolves out of the gates in the fourth quarter. A 14-2 run within the first three minutes of the frame gave Memphis the lead.

It was at that point Towns seemed to pop up off the bench and race to check in, but not even the all-star big could stop the avalanche in progress.

Memphis finished with 80 points in the paint to Minnesota’s 44.

Memphis (5-6) has won three straight and will be back at Target Center on Friday.

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