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Updated: January 16th, 2014 10:15pm
Frustrated Adelman pushing Wolves to step 'out of their comfort zone'

Frustrated Adelman pushing Wolves to step 'out of their comfort zone'

by Nate Sandell
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Flip Saunders summed it up best when asked earlier in the week about the Minnesota Timberwolves' ongoing woes in close game situations.

"It's the definition of insanity, doing things over and over and expecting different results," the Wolves' president of basketball operations said. "And we've continued to play the same way in those close games and have been getting the same results."

Saunders' words extend beyond just the final minutes of a game into a more full-scale problem. A tendency to revert into the same bad habits has resulted in a squad that has hovered around the .500 mark for much of the season.

The rut the Wolves are caught in deepened Wednesday when a late, spirited rally against the Sacramento Kings couldn't make up for almost 42 minutes of flat, energy-lacking play. The consequence was a 111-108 home loss -- their 11th defeat by four points or less -- to a sub-par team on the second day of a back to back.

Needless to say, coach Rick Adelman was left stewing in a state of ever-mounting frustration. The problems Wednesday were no different than the other ones that have led to them holding an 18-20 record and little trace of forward progress nearly midway through the season.

One day later, following a team film session and meeting, Adelman's exasperation hadn't diminished. In fact, it resulted in a direct, pointedly honest evaluation of his team.

"I think it's very evident in the games that we've lost that we've had leads in that we have a tendency just to relax, 'we've got this one,"' Adelman said. "Before we know it, they're back in the game. And now any mistake or anything can happen.

"That's kind of been the M.O. of this team and it has to change. We've talked from Day 1. They've got to get out of their comfort zone. Whatever that is it's got to be better than what they're doing."

Adelman criticized his team for a repeated lack of aggression and failure to fight back, both offensively and defensively, when opponents start to push them around (Minnesota is allowing teams to shoot a league-worst 47.6 percent).

At times, the Wolves look like a team brimming with potential, armed with the offensive weapons to make a playoff push. Equally, they experience long periods in which they are a squad with inability to keep the pieces together.

"We've got to face facts that we're a .500 team," Adelman said. "Right now we're below .500. I told them today, 'If you think you're a playoff team why don't you just forget it, because you haven't proven that you are. You haven't gone out and really established yourselves yet.'"

Until the Wolves fully grasp that point, Adelman said, they won't be able to find the spark needed to sever the cycle of mediocrity.

Kevin Love agreed that somehow the Wolves have to develop a nasty streak and the fight required to claw into legitimate playoff contention.

"One hundred percent," Love said. "I think we need to develop some sort of edge ... We are edgy in practice, we just need to transition that into the game. We have it in us. We just need to go out there and do it. And hopefully now that it's out there, we can kind of hold ourselves accountable."

If the Wolves want to avoid falling three games under .500 for the first time this season, they will have to beat the Raptors (19-18) on the road Friday. That's not as easy as history may make it sound. Toronto is 12-6 since trading away Rudy Gay and in the midst of a five-game home win streak.

Nate Sandell is a contributor to 1500ESPN.com.
Email Nate | @nsandell
In this story: Kevin Love
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