The worst part of an ugly loss is rarely the result. Failure to win is a disappointment but not the reason for the ultimate deflation. That, I think, stands in watching a basketball game unfold with the life extracted from it, even worse when you’re watching it drip slowly out as the game goes on. It’s been a bad week for the Timberwolves; having called for consistency, we were granted three straight losses with the Raptors winning a 89-94 skirmish of meager substance.
The Raptors played well at times, that this game was a one-possession game with as little as 1:27 left was an insult to them. Passes were made with intent, drives made with belief, I despise dramatizing the intangible aspect of teams and players, but these teams are as far as could be in terms of emotional welfare right now. The Raptors are surging in the Eastern Conference, having won 13 of their last 19 they sit in third at the time of writing. Deniers can barely even complain about their legitimacy as they hold the third best point differential (+2.7) in the conference despite having played more on the road than at home, there is no team feeling better about themselves right now. They were assigned lowly tanking aspirations but having shaken them off to the point where hosting a playoff series is a real possibility.
Minnesota, on the other hand, had been chosen. Picked by many to end the drought and reach the playoffs the team have fallen from a promising 7-4 start down to 18-21. The point differential still remains as a huge positive (+4.2), held through a hard bevy of close losses and comfortable wins, but currently is little consolation for a team four games back from the playoffs.
As I said earlier, the results are not the real demoralizer. Watching this team lose what made it fun is a much, much worse punishment for losing than missing the playoffs. The motion, ball movement and obvious freedom that emanated from the team is waning and i’m not sure who is the one to revive it. Somebody always has to lose, but the genuinely difficult aspect of being a fan is watching a team play slightly within themselves. They didn’t give the game away, they didn’t “not try” or “quit,” but with unexpected losses comes unexpected negativity.
This team is currently shrouded in self-consciousness, Ricky Rubio’s inaccurate shooting can be forgiven but it’s the maverick charges up court — head on a swivel — that made him so watchable. He’s somewhere between a hardened veteran and a green rookie, less experienced than most but no longer as electric and care-free. Kevin Love too, has not played badly but has instead played quietly, it felt like he was on the court for 20 minutes Friday night–though of course this could be attributed to the cloud that covers your eyes and attention when losing to the Toronto Raptors.
Truth is, the way the whole team has played in the past week makes me a little worried for their psyche right now. The performances have looked somewhat unconfident and even a little uninterested at times. Let me be clear, I categorically do not believe they are uninterested. However, the perception arises with every poorly thought-out pass or slow trek back on defense and it’s really tough to watch athletes play like that. Uninterested passages are for summer league and the coasting elite, not the fighting lower classes.
So in trying to give a measured response to the game I just watched I ended up talking about how depressing it is to watch the Timberwolves as of late. The roster is still the same, though, and the players are experienced to be able to look past a bad week, but as the playoff dream slips away, we could found ourselves in a nightmare of indifference.