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Commentary: Timberwolves aren’t ready for success. This series might be over.

After leading by as many as 26 points in the first half and as many as 25 points in the second half, the Timberwolves proved they aren’t ready for success in a crushing 104-95 loss.

NBA: Playoffs-Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota Timberwolves center Naz Reid (11) fouls Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) in the third quarter on Thursday, April 21, during game one of the three round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at Target Center.
Brad Rempel / USA Today Sports
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With their first-round series hanging in the balance, the Timberwolves landed a devastating haymaker Thursday night at Target Center.

Twice.

On both occasions, the Memphis Grizzlies took it square on the chin, staggered to their feet, and went to work. That’s what true contenders do.

It’s clear the Timberwolves aren’t that. Not yet. Not even close

After leading by as many as 26 points in the first half and as many as 25 points in the second half, the Timberwolves proved they aren’t ready for success in a crushing 104-95 loss.

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The Grizzlies now hold a 2-1 lead in the series. Not that it matters. This series might be over.

It’s hard to imagine the Timberwolves bouncing back from something like this.

They have very little playoff experience on the roster, and even worse, they have a star who can’t be trusted to stay on the floor.

Both of those things were on display in Game 3.

Maybe the Timberwolves thought it was going to be easy after jumping out to a 12-0 lead in the first quarter. Maybe they thought the Grizzlies would go away when they trailed by 26 points in the second quarter.

Instead, the Timberwolves got complacent when the scoreboard read 47-21 with 10:28 left in the second quarter. They started taking bad shots, got careless with the ball, and the Grizzlies fought their way back into the game. Thanks to a 15-0 run to close out the first half, the Grizzlies cut the deficit to 51-44.

NBA: Playoffs-Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Malik Beasley (5) shoots against the Memphis Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane (22) in the third quarter on Thursday, April 21, during game one of the three round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at Target Center.
Brad Rempel / USA Today Sports

Shockingly, the Timberwolves were able to respond to that bout of adversity by taking control of the game early in the third quarter. They got some inspired play from D’Angelo Russell, who helped his teammates regain their composure and helped the Timberwolves restore their lead to 25 points.

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The scoreboard read 83-62 in favor of the Timberwolves with 1:05 left in the third quarter. That’s when the lack of playoff experience reared its ugly head once again as some sloppy play opened the door.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Grizzlies walked right in. They are as gritty a bunch as there is in the NBA, and they mounted an incredible 21-0 run to tie the game at 83-83 early in the fourth quarter.

After a couple of free throws from Anthony Edwards helped momentarily stop the bleeding, Minnesota native Tyus Jones nailed a 3-pointer to make it 86-85, and the Grizzlies never trailed again.

The inability to hold on to a massive lead shows the lack of playoff experience. That’s going to be a tough pill to swallow moving forward.

The more pressing issue for the Timberwolves, however, is that Karl-Anthony Towns continues to come up small when the lights get bright. He battled foul trouble for the umpteenth time this season and was on the bench when the Timberwolves needed him most.

While nobody on the Timberwolves played well down the stretch — not Russell, not Edwards, not anybody — Towns wasn’t even on the floor.

This isn’t suddenly going to change. This is who Towns is as a player.

He couldn’t stay on the floor in the play-in game against the Los Angeles Clippers, and despite a dominant performance in Game 1 against the Grizzlies, he struggled with foul trouble in Game 2 and clearly didn’t learn his lesson in Game 3.

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That might be the biggest takeaway from this loss. As much as the Timberwolves are going to lament the blown leads — and they absolutely should — the fact Towns wasn’t on the floor was a big part of their downfall.

After watching the Grizzlies get knocked down and get up again, the Timberwolves are going to have to do the same in Game 4.

Do they have that in them? It sure doesn’t look like it.

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