HOUSTON – The Timberwolves' first season under new coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau ended Wednesday in Houston with a 123-118 loss.
It was their sixth consecutive defeat in a grueling season finish and the 13th consecutive season when they won't make the playoffs.
Thibodeau as well as young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins vowed this will be the last time their summers start so early.
"It's now going on 13 years of losing; I'm sick of it after one," Thibodeau said. "There has to be more. If we want to change it, the determination has to be greater."
Wednesday's loss and New York's victory means the Wolves will be slotted sixth or seventh in draft order before the May draft lottery.
The Wolves and the playoff-bound Rockets both liberally played reserves in the season's final game. Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio did not play, so rookie Kris Dunn started and delivered a career-best 16 assists while fellow point guard Tyus Jones' 17 points in 28 minutes off the bench were a career high as well.
Wiggins said this will be the last time he and his teammates are going home early.
"I'm certain," Wiggins said. "I'm certain. The guys are ready to change."
Thibodeau sent his players off on what he called a month's "active rest" before they begin their summer conditioning, skills and study programs.
He acknowledged he'll take some time off before he puts his examination of this season to rest and delves into prep for the draft and free agency.
"Yeah," he said, "the flight back to Minneapolis."
Thibodeau said Rubio didn't play because he was "nicked up" and because Thibodeau wanted to get a longer look at Dunn and Jones in the season finale.
He denied it involved a clause believed to be in Rubio's contract that pays him $100,000 if he shot 40 percent or better from the field during the season. By sitting, Rubio finished the season at 40.2 percent, the first time in his career he reached 40 percent.
"Nah, nah, nah," Thibodeau said. "Look, if he was feeling 100 percent and he was adamant about playing, we would have played him. It just made sense. It's a long season."
What about that?
Towns' 14th of his 21 rebounds made him the youngest player in NBA history to reach 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a season. He's the 15th overall and the first since Tim Duncan in the 2001-02 season to do so.
"To me, it doesn't mean too much," Towns said. "I wish I could have made the playoffs and had none of those stats."
Don't ask him
The Wolves finished the season by playing Oklahoma City and Houston back-to-back. The two teams have the top two candidates for league MVP: Russell Westbrook and James Harden, who delivered a 27-point, 12-assist, 10-rebound triple-double Wednesday.
"I don't and I'm glad I don't have a vote," Thibodeau told reporters before the game. "That's for you guys. I can't recall a situation in which it has been this close. I don't know how you decide."
Getting Zach back
While the Wolves played their final game, injured guard Zach LaVine continues to rehab his knee after February surgery to repair a torn knee ligament.
Asked if LaVine might be ready by next season's opener, Thibodeau said: "When he's ready, he's ready. ... There are a lot of other things he can do while he's going through rehab that can help him be a better player: He's shooting, ballhandling, watching film. He's lifting weights, so he's making great use of his time."
• Dunn's 16 assists were one shy of the most ever by a Wolves rookie: Stephon Marbury had 17 against Milwaukee on April 18, 1997.
• Towns' 20 defensive rebounds puts him alongside Kevin Garnett (five times), Al Jefferson and Kevin Love as the only players to do that.