All-star break, mercifully, arrives as Timberwolves drop ninth straight

Well, Chris Finch’s intense evaluation period of his new team is now complete. And it’s only logical to assume the conclusion is as simple as “bad.”

Five games, five losses — four of which were not competitive. Wednesday’s second half was the exclamation mark on a pitiful first half of the season. Trailing by just six at the break, the Wolves were run out of the gym over the final 24 minutes.

Charlotte out-scored Minnesota by 32 over the first 17 minutes of the second half — including an 18-0 run — building a lead as big as 38 while cruising to a 135-102 victory.

Terry Rozier had 31 for Charlotte. LaMelo Ball, whom Minnesota passed on in the draft in favor of Anthony Edwards, had 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Charlotte (17-18) shot 52 percent from the field and 44 percent from deep.

The Wolves didn’t have a single player score 20 points.

Finch has said he isn’t one for postgame speeches, but he took a moment Wednesday to tell his team the performance was “unacceptable.”

The Timberwolves wrap the first half of the season with the worst record in the NBA at 7-29. Finch is still searching for his first career head coaching victory. Minnesota has lost nine-straight games.

“We’ve just got to take a long look at ourselves and solve the problem,” Karl-Anthony Towns said. “That’s not the way we should be playing. There’s not much to say on that.”

Finch said the team needs to “regroup” after the break, noting his players should brace for “a whole new reality.”

“We’re going to tighten it up and we’re going to find the guys that want to compete,” Finch said. “If we come back with a similar mindset, tonight’s performance was absolutely unacceptable from a competitive spirit point of view and just an overall execution and performance.”

On Tuesday, Finch noted there were a few things he’d like to see done a little harder. That’s been the story of Minnesota’s season. While often undermanned, the Timberwolves haven’t helped themselves with common lackluster cuts, screens and defensive rotations, among other things.

“When you talk about doing things hard or not hard enough, players generally don’t play hard or do things hard because they don’t understand, they don’t care or they’re not able to do it,” Finch said.

He went on to say his players are both capable and care. But performances like the one the Wolves delivered in the second half Wednesday make the latter seem a little fuzzy.

“I think they care,” Finch said Wednesday. “I think this is where maybe their youth comes in, their inexperience in some capacity and their confidence is shaken, for sure. I don’t think it’s a care factor.”

Perhaps it’s execution. Whatever it is, Karl-Anthony Towns is tired of it.

“I’m tired of looking at the box score and looking at all the numbers and (stuff) and talking about the same thing — how we haven’t won or ‘Oh, we’ve got to do this and do that,’” Towns said. “Obviously, what we said hasn’t worked. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and make the plan work and just see what happens.”

Hopefully, some improvement occurs — which hasn’t been the case over the past 10 days.

“I definitely see regression. It’s on us as players. We gotta be better,” Towns said. “We just gotta take this break and take a long look at all of ourselves and say we want to fix the problem. If we don’t want to fix the problem, we’ll come out and have these losses again.”

Last season, amid a long losing streak not unlike this one, Towns noted his patience was “running thin.” What’s the status of that patience level right about now?

“Thank God for the break,” Towns said. “That’s really it. Recharge the battery.”

BRIEFLY

Anthony Edwards was named to U.S.’s Rising Stars Challenge roster Wednesday. The NBA announced the rosters — which feature the game’s best first- and second-year players — though the game won’t be played during a modified all-star weekend.

Edwards previously turned down an invitation to participate in this weekend’s Slam Dunk Contest, Yahoo Sports reported.

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