Another lifeless effort dooms Wolves in surprising loss to Cavaliers
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MINNEAPOLIS -- For the second straight game, the Minnesota Timberwolves delivered a lifeless performance at home against a team they were favored to beat on Friday night and took on the chin in a 98-87 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Wolves were never in any type of rhythm offensively or defensively and pretty much let the Cavaliers have their way with them.
"They were getting whatever they wanted on offense," Michael Beasley said.
Said coach Rick Adelman, "This was the first game where they just outplayed us. They were physical and we just caved in."
The Wolves (2-5) kept it close for the first three quarters, giving the impression they might make a late run at it much like they did against the Memphis Grizzlies and Milwaukee Bucks this season. But the run was never there.
"I told them that this is not going to be easy," Adelman said. "They have to tough it out and do so on the road and try to get a win."
Things got worse for the Wolves late in the fourth quarter, when Beasley limped off the court after rolling his ankle and headed straight to the locker room.
After the game, the team announced Beasley was diagnosed with a right mid-foot sprain. X-rays were taken, but they came back negative, and Beasley will be further evaluated Saturday morning.
Beasley was in considerable pain in the locker room after the game and needed assistance getting dressed. He said he isn't going to make the same mistake he did last year by trying to rush back from an ankle injury.
"I am going to sit down for a couple days, however long the trainers tell me," he said before leaving on crutchces.
The first half was not the type of basketball 16,943 fans and media members will one day brag to their grandkids about seeing.
The teams combined for 14 turnovers and both shot below 50% for the half. The Wolves were especially bad, firing just 1-of-6 from 3-point range and going into the locker room trailing 52-45.
The Wolves relied on an unlikely savior in the first half, Darko Milicic, who scored 11 points in the first quarter. Fitting with the theme of the night, he regressed as the game went on, not scoring another basket the final three quarters.
The sluggish first half continued into the second after Adelman was apparently unable to light a fire in the locker room. Cleveland (4-3) quickly came out to an 11-point lead and dictated the tempo of the third frame.
The Wolves showed flashes but Cleveland continued there mental and physical edge, holding a 12-point advantage heading into the final quarter.
Love had his seventh game with 20-plus points and 12-plus rebounds, finishing with 29 and 14. But he got increasingly frustrated throughout the game and once again couldn't help his team in the most important statistical category there is -- the win.
"We need more people playing at a higher level, especially at the offensive end," Adelman said.
Heading into the season, the emphasis was on defense. But Adelman said after the game that the team's offense -- or lack thereof -- is what is holding the team back.
The next high-scorer after Love's 29 points was rookie Derrick Williams off the bench.
Ricky Rubio had a quiet night, getting in foul trouble midway through the third when he picked up his fourth personal of the contest. He finished with 10 points, five assists and three turnovers in 27 minutes of work.
Wesley Johnson continues to struggle, going six straight quarters without scoring a point before a 19-foot jumper in the third quarter got him off the schneid.
Adelman admitted before the game that he thought the sophomore was feeling the pressure and was pressing a bit looking for his shot.
"(My confidence) is up and down," Johnson admitted.
With the exception of an early three point lead, the Cavaliers led pretty much wire-to-wire, taking their biggest lead of the game, 18 points, in the fourth quarter.
6: Quarters Johnson went without scoring a point after being held to a goose egg Wednesday in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
7: Unofficial tally of airballs in this ugly contest.
4-of-12: Shooting for Beasley, who finished with nine points in 27 minutes before leaving in the fourth quarter with that ankle injury.
20: Percent the Wolves shot from downtown (4-of-20).
PG J.J. Barea remains out with a hamstring injury and there is no clearer timetable for when he may return than there was on Wednesday.
Barea has missed three of the last four games with the nagging injury, having played in a win against his former team the Dallas Mavericks, which both he and Adelman admitted was a bit of a rush.
It is unclear if Barea will be with the team for the two game road trip that starts Sunday afternoon in Washington against Flip Saunders and the struggling Wizards.
"Just wait and see what the medical staff says," Adelman said. "He did a lot of running today. They are going to try to see if it is best to take him on the trip and see how he goes or leave him here."
"He seems to be doing a lot better. He doesn't seem to be favoring it as much so I think they are being very cautious."
Number one vs. number two
Friday's game was an interesting exercise in the hypothetical game of "What if?"
The Wolves finished with the worst record in the NBA last season at 17-65 and thus had the best shot at the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. The Cavaliers finished two games ahead of the Wolves at 19-63 and needed a little bit of luck on their side to land the coveted first selection.
As every fan remembers, the Wolves dropped to two. The Cavaliers popped ahead of them for the first pick and took the consensus best player on the board in Kyrie Irving and the Wolves selected Williams out of Arizona.
Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said they had Williams in for workouts but ultimately could not decide where exactly he fits on the court -- a problem Adelman is still figuring out.
"I didn't know what position per se to say he was or is," Scott said. "Is he a power forward or small forward? His workouts for us were both OK. He is another one of those guys that I think will be in the league a long time and average 15, 17 points a game. But at that particular time, with that number one pick, we truly needed a point guard."
Irving got the win and had the slight statistical edge in the first meeting between the two, scoring 14 points to Williams' 12.
"I played pretty well," Williams said. "He's a great talent, spectacular player. He didn't even look like a rookie out there. He is going to be a great player."
"It's a little premature. But also, I see why he is going to be on that ballot for a long time. After four games? It's a little premature, but I am happy for the young man," Scott said of Irving being put on the All-Star Game ballot.
After playing six of their first seven games in the friendly confines of the Target Center, the Wolves hit the road. They travel to Washington to take on the Wizards on Sunday at noon before flying to Toronto to face the Raptors.
Their road weary legs will get no rest, however. The Wolves will hop a plane back to Minneapolis, where Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls will be waiting for them -- the first of two back-to-back-to-backs for the Wolves in this lockout-shortened season.