As someone who takes pride in being able to articulate my feelings during both high and low moments of life, that was about all I could muster up late Tuesday night after the Memphis Grizzlies knocked off the Minnesota Timberwolves 111-109 in a pivotal Game 5 of their NBA playoff matchup.
I can’t speak for everyone, but during high-pressure, chaotic sports moments like the fourth quarter of last night’s game, I sort of just black out. Regardless of the result, I usually need a few hours to scroll back through Twitter, re-watch certain moments (or the entire game), and just kind of pick up the pieces of what exactly took place as I try to cautiously put the puzzle back together.
This obviously goes without saying, but last night was absolutely insane (and also extremely frustrating). Removing all 110% of my Timberwolves fandom for a moment, last night’s loss stung a little extra hard because it truly seemed like the fourth game in five attempts that Minnesota outplayed the 2-seed in the Western Conference, but ultimately all they had to show for it late Tuesday night was a few (historically bad) blown leads and a 3-2 deficit in the series.
The Grizzles are the first team in NBA history to have multiple wins in a single playoff series in which they trailed by double-digits entering the 4th quarter.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 27, 2022
The 2020 Heat are the only other team to even accomplish that twice in a single postseason. pic.twitter.com/0bga8wjYKd
That’s not to take anything away from Memphis by the way — it requires an inordinate amount of skill, toughness, and poise to be able to keep taking the types of punches that Minnesota has hit them with and still find ways to find themselves on the winning side of the ledger. I mean, just look at this stat from the great Alan Horton:
In 88 games this season, MIN has blown 3 double-digit 4th quarter leads.— Alan Horton (@WolvesRadio) April 27, 2022
All 3 have been to the Grizzlies.
All 3 have been by 13 or more points.
Again, blowing a double-digit lead to the Grizzlies is one thing, doing it twice is another, but doing it three times in the span of one calendar year is nearly impossible, and creates yet another data point for this front office to analyze as they approach what will ultimately become one of the most important summers in Minnesota Timberwolves franchise history.
Another reason last night was so painful to digest was because, at least in my opinion, I thought some of the Timberwolves (Chris Finch included) showed real strides and promise when compared to past situations or previous mistakes.
For example, Karl-Anthony Towns probably woke up today to find an immense number of memes and jokes about his whole “hushing the crowd” moment that occurred late in the fourth quarter, but that shouldn’t completely negate the fact that KAT had yet another dominant performance in tallying 28 points, 12 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks.
Karl-Anthony Towns 3 “shhh” pic.twitter.com/RzhBryugF5— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) April 27, 2022
Given the time remaining and circumstances, was the whole “shhh” thing a bad idea? Yeah, for sure. The closest comparison I can make for myself personally is when I tweet funny or light-hearted shit about a Timberwolves victory, but I go out of my way to make sure the final score has been basically notarized by Adam Silver himself before pushing “send.”
But back to Karl — does he still foul too much? Absolutely. Does he sometimes say things publicly that I wish he would just keep private? Yeah. But the dude is also playing his ass off in this series, and has immediately followed up some of the worst performances of his career by playing some of the most impressive basketball we’ve ever seen since he arrived in Minnesota back in 2015. Can you say the same for guys like James Harden, Trae Young, Donovan Mitchell, or hell even Kevin Durant during these playoffs? I’m not so sure.
Another aspect from last night that was clearly deflating in the moment but is something that has stuck with me for the last 15 hours or so was the final few moments down the stretch from Anthony Edwards. In case you missed it, I’m talking about this play:
Anthony Edwards game-tying corner 3, great play-call from Coach Finch + pass from Jordan McLaughlin pic.twitter.com/QtIc4S8QTW— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) April 27, 2022
And subsequently this play:
Without being prisoner of the moment, you could make a case that those were the two biggest moments of ANT’s young career. First, he hit a fadeaway three in the corner on a truly Hogwarts-level magical play design by the wizard Chris Finch himself (seriously, Finchy if you’re reading this, all beers this summer are on me). However, before we could fully celebrate or embrace just how impressive Edwards’ first game-tying or go-ahead shot in the final :10 of 4Q/OT was, he followed everything up with a cataclysmic mistake that ultimately led to the game-winning shot by Ja Morant.
Asked after the game about his decision to try and go for the steal, here’s what Anthony Edwards had to say:
Anthony Edwards on the final Memphis possession that led to the Ja Morant game-winner:— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) April 27, 2022
"I had already had my mind made up that I was going to try and steal it. Dumb mistake. It's over though, so can't do nothing about it."
Do I love that ANT had already made up his mind about what how he was going to defend Morant? Nope. Do I love that ANT immediately took ownership after the game and said the mistake was on him? Yep.
As I tweeted out after the game, I’ll remember that Anthony Edwards game-tying three far longer than I’ll remember him mistakenly going for the steal at the end of the game. The kid is 20-years old. You can teach him defensive principles and how to approach late-game situations, but you can’t really teach the ability to make clutch shots when your team needs you the most. Add in the leadership he displayed after the game to acknowledge his mistakes and then publicly welcome the added pressure/criticism that is about to come his way? That seems like one step back, five steps forward for a kid who can’t legally drink yet.
(If you still haven’t fully digested last night’s collapse and/or don’t enjoy me trying to put positive spins on things, then now would be a good time for me to wish you a Happy Wednesday and for you to just scroll down to the comments).
For me personally, as I continue to take in not only everything from Game 5, but the first four playoff games as well, the play-in game against the Clippers, and the 82 regular season games that took place before all of that, I can’t help but sit back and smile at the growth and development of some of the most crucial pieces of this whole puzzle (sickening, I know).
Listen, losing fucking sucks, especially when it involves games that you showed you were more than capable of winning. While this series is definitely not over yet (I expect to see as many of you as possible Friday night at Target Center for Game 6), potentially getting bounced in the first round after essentially outplaying your opponent for most of the series is going to sting. It’s going to leave you yourself saying “ouch.”
But from this fan’s perspective, as I continue to pick up the pieces from not only last night but this entire season, I’m realizing for the first time in a long time that there’s a lot more pieces at my disposable to finally put together, and I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty cool.