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After the Timberwolves locker room had cleared out and some of the players had calmed down following an upsetting 120-107 loss to Knicks on Monday night, Austin Rivers stood alone putting in his earrings as he answered questions from the media.

The veteran guard scored nine points, registered a plus-11 and was the only one who played defense with any kind of physicality.

Using some colorful language, Rivers was emphasizing the need for the Wolves to "lock in." "Buy in, lock in," Rivers said. "Know who we're playing. Respect the craft. Respect the game."

He added; "We're in no position to go into any game thinking any game is sweet. We got to get it out the mud. That physicality, that energy, we haven't had that this year."

A few minutes earlier, Anthony Edwards, whose locker is next to Rivers', sat back in his chair after hemming and hawing about having to address the media after the loss. He eventually did, despite guard D'Angelo Russell (4-for-12, 14 points) warning him and center Naz Reid that reporters were only trying to trap them into saying something that would cause a stir.

Edwards said the Wolves are "soft" and the Knicks exposed what the Wolves' reputation is around the league. How does the team address being soft?

"It's hard, man," Edwards said. "I don't know, man. We're going to try to figure it out, because that's what it looks like right now. That's what teams are saying, from the looks of it. They're coming out like, 'We're going to punk them.' That's what's going on."

The Wolves and their fans couldn't blame this loss on Rudy Gobert and the awkwardness of trying to integrate him into their offensive schemes. If anything, the Wolves needed the center's defensive presence as he missed his second consecutive game in COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

“We'll play hard for a little bit and then someone will make a shot on us and we'll turn it over and things kind of snowball on us. That's why we've been down big in most of these games.”
Chris Finch

This loss struck more to the heart of who the Wolves are as a team right now, and the intangible qualities like effort and energy that translated into the mediocre tangible performance Monday. Reid (11 points) said the team isn't buying into doing the "little things" it was doing last season that made it so successful. He didn't know why the Wolves were taking those things for granted.

"I believe in each and every person on this team now," Reid said. "That was a good team, but we're in the future now, we're not in the past anymore. This team is a team that can go really far if we just play hard, lock in and do what we're supposed to do."

That rarely happened Monday in a game that drew more boos, which are becoming a common occurrence, from the home crowd.

New York hit 40% of its three-pointers, with Julius Randle hitting eight to score 31 points as the Knicks led by as many as 27. Those numbers weren't just lucky shooting. New York also scored 29 points off 18 Wolves turnovers. Offensively, the Wolves were OK. Karl-Anthony Towns had an efficient shooting night with 25 points on 12 shot attempts, but the lethargy with which they fell behind by more than 20 in the second quarter was palpable. Perhaps nobody exhibited that more than Edwards, who looked disinterested in the first half before becoming more aggressive in the second to score 16.

"I'm just ready to go home, man," Edwards said, before correcting himself. "I'm not even ready to go home. I want to play again. I mean, I just want to go home happy one of these nights, versus a good team. Like, we played Houston [on Saturday], we beat Houston, everybody was happy. But we've got Phoenix next. I want to be able to go home at night and be happy with my dogs. My nephew's in town. I want to be happy around my nephew, so I want to have a great game the next game."

That's going to require more than what the Wolves gave Monday, and the fact that they don't give the requisite effort on a night-in, night-out basis is becoming a problem.

"We'll play hard for a little bit and then someone will make a shot on us and we'll turn it over and things kind of snowball on us," coach Chris Finch said. "That's why we've been down big in most of these games. We've got to be better. We've got to play harder for longer and be more consistent."

But Rivers said there's only so much Finch can do to point out mistakes and encourage that kind of desire to play. The players have to find it within themselves.

"We have to hold each other accountable as teammates and players and start to go out there and put our best foot forward," Rivers said.

The good thing, he said, was the Wolves have a lot of young players who care — and also happened to use a snowball analogy to illustrate his point.

"All these young guys here listen. They do," Rivers said. "They're all receptive of it. We've just got to keep talking, keep pushing each other forward and the snowball can go the other way where we're running games off and this can be a distant memory."

Instead, the bad memories keep piling on top of each other.