HOUSTON – One number stood out among all the other bad ones for the Timberwolves in their 119-114 loss to the lowly Rockets: 10, as in 10 turnovers in the third quarter.
That stat sums up everything about the Wolves on Monday and who they are as a team. Those turnovers were self-inflicted, not the product of playing a stifling defense. The Wolves again showed who they were in falling to the Rockets, who had just 10 victories entering the night and had lost 13 in a row. They were undisciplined, lacking focus and it cost them in a game they should have won against the team with the worst record in the league.
"We have the ability to beat anybody, and we have the ability to lose to anybody and that's been on display all season," coach Chris Finch said. "That's an immature trait."
Jalen Green scored a career-high 42 points for Houston. D'Angelo Russell had 30 points and Anthony Edwards 31 for the Wolves.
In their two previous matchups this month, the Wolves had to overcome double-digit deficits to beat Houston. They messed around a little too much Monday, and they weren't trying to dispute the idea that they took the Rockets too lightly.
"It's a bad tendency, but it is a tendency," Edwards said. "It's a bad tendency I got to change within myself and we got to change together. If this was anybody else we're coming out ready to play."
The Wolves will look back on nights like Monday and the two games they dropped against the Pistons, the worst team in the East, as missed opportunities. They are 3-3 in their six matchups against those two teams. Add in the Spurs and Hornets, the second-worst teams in each conference, and the Wolves are 4-6 against the bottom four teams in the league.
"You are what you repeatedly do," Finch said. "We repeatedly struggle with these types of games. Focus sure has to be part of the problem, but we just didn't have enough guys play well either. Go down there and there's not a whole lot of guys who played well."
Rudy Gobert returned from a three-game absence because of right groin soreness to score 15 points and grab 16 rebounds, but Kyle Anderson battled foul trouble and only played 12 minutes and had two points. Naz Reid played just nine minutes and scored two points.
Few were offering help to Edwards and Russell in terms of scoring and almost nobody bothered to play defense to the best of their ability. The Rockets shot 50% for the game and won despite having 23 turnovers of their own. The Wolves had 19.
“We have the ability to beat anybody, and we have the ability to lose to anybody and that's been on display all season. That's an immature trait”
The teams were tied at halftime, but the Wolves were down nine after their mistake-prone third quarter. They never tied or took the lead again despite getting within 100-99 on an Edwards three-pointer with 5 minutes, 6 seconds remaining.
"It's kind of a bad habit. Have an opportunity to take advantage of it and give ourselves a chance to catapult in the standings a little bit and just failed to take advantage of it," Russell said. "If it was the other way around and we had New Orleans [their opponent Wednesday] for that spot, we probably would've came around and played … Just making it harder for ourselves."
Edwards said he hoped the Wolves played the Rockets again so the Wolves had a chance to rectify Monday's performance. They don't and they won't.
"The games we got to win, we got to take care of them," Edwards said. "Finchy shouldn't have to be doing too much coaching these games. He should just be sitting on the bench. We have to take care of them. That's on us."