Changes could be coming after Wolves start slow again in loss to Bulls
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Rick Adelman hinted at a change in the starting lineup. Kevin Love all but came out and demanded it.
After Tuesday's 111-100 loss to the Chicago Bulls in front of a sellout crowd at Target Center, there's a good chance that change could come as soon as Friday.
Trailing by 24 midway through the second quarter, the Wolves uncorked a 20-2 run to end the half and stayed within striking distance the rest of the way, thanks almost entirely to another strong effort from the bench. But they never fully recovered in a 111-100 loss.
"We couldn't make a shot," Adelman said about the first quarter. "They're very athletic. Them and Miami are the favorites in the East. They really took a shot at us in the beginning, but our guys regrouped and we got back into it."
For the first time this season, Adelman shook up the lineup to start the third quarter.
Rather than sticking with slumping starters Wesley Johnson, Darko Milicic and Wayne Ellington, Adelman stuck with reserves Ricky Rubio, Anthony Randolph and Anthony Tolliver -- the catalysts of the big run that had the 19,356 fans in a frenzy during the second-quarter surge.
"I think they earned it," Adelman said. "We came back in the second quarter. They played really well in the last part of the second quarter. I wanted to stay with that and see what we could to start the second half of the game."
Adelman dismissed talk before the game about changes to the starting five, saying he likes the jolt of energy Rubio and J.J. Barea give the team when they come off the bench.
He laughed when he was asked the exact same question after the game, saying he knew that was coming. But Adelman held his ground and tried to downplay the significance of him jumbling the third-quarter lineup.
"I just felt that group that we had out there was our best shot to maintain and stay with it," he said.
The bench outscored the starters 52-48 and the team was clearly more dynamic, efficient and energetic when they were in the game. Johnson, Ellington and Darko didn't play in the second half, and all played less than 10 minutes total.
Rubio played one of his best games, scoring 13 points and dishing 12 assists. Randolph showed why he can still be a key cog to this team, scoring 18 points and playing with more energy and athleticism and than he has shown all season. Barea scored 10 points in his second game back before rolling his ankle.
Adelman may not have wanted to tip his hand that a change could be coming, but his only All-Star was a bit more open about his desire to see the guys who finish the game start the game as well.
"Yeah. We need to get off to a good start," Love said. "Look at Memphis (in Wednesday's loss). Look at (Tuesday). We really, really need to get off to a good start if we want to win basketball games. (Tuesday), we can't be fighting from behind like that.
"We need to have that same intensity and go on one of those runs where it is a relatively close ball game or we are up so when we take our 15-, 20-point run on Chicago and they are fighting their way back. If we do that, we can get off to a good start in the first quarter and in the third quarter to start the second half, it will make us that much better."
Love couldn't pinpoint exactly why the starters continue to get off to such a sluggish start -- he just knows something needs to change if this team is going to make to match its preseason potential.
"I don't know what it is. It is just slow," Love said about the starts of games. "For lack of a better term, it is just slow. We need to push the ball, get looks and not always start off with jump shots, myself included. We need to get to the line, get a rhythm going, have a pace to our offense again."
The Wolves had a puncher's chance in the fourth quarter if they could have gotten stops, but reigning MVP Derrick Rose was just too good, scoring 14 of his 31 in the final frame, in which the Bulls shot 66% from the field.
"When they needed it, (Rose) was on fire," Love said.
• 0: Minutes for starters Johnson and Darko in the second half of Tuesday's game.
• 7: Years since the Wolves had a weekday sell out. The last time was March 31, 2004, against the Seattle Super Sonics.
• 1: Number of players who have recorded a double-double in every one of their games. That player is, of course, Mr. Double-Double himself, Love, who finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
The Wolves announced before the game that Michael Beasley will be out indefinitely with his mid-foot sprain and that no clearer of a timetable was given.
Beasley chatted briefly with reporters in the locker room before the game while wearing a walking boot on his injured right foot and said he can't get walk without it and couldn't add much clarification for when he may be back on the court.
"A day, two days, week, two weeks?" Beasley said.
The recently turned 23-year-old (his birthday was Monday) said it is a matter of when the pain subsides and he can get around. Beasley also said the night of the injury he isn't going to rush back like he did last season after coming back too soon from an ankle injury last season that kept reoccurring.
He did remain in his usually high spirits despite the setback, joking that he might even be able to play in his walking boot.
"I might just be a little slow coming around screens," he said.
Barea said after the game he's OK after rolling the ankle.
No fast break
When the Wolves hired Adelman to replace Kurt Rambis, fans of the Wolves immediately had visions of run-and-gun teams throughout Adelman's career.
The initial plan was for the Wolves to use their young, youthful legs and try to push the ball up-and-down the court, but that quickly fizzled. The Wolves entered Monday ranked No. 27 in the NBA in fast-break points at a mere 8.6 per game.
What's gone wrong?
"My teams have always tried to run, but I think the thing that has really hindered that is our lack of ball handling," Adelman said. "We have situations where we just don't take advantage of and we turn it over and it is very difficult when you don't have guys that can finish or make the right plays."
The decision to another ball handler in Barea now looks like a no-brainer for a team that lacks the talent to put the ball on the floor and create -- especially with Beasley out.
Adelman also pinpointed the added emphasis on defense the Wolves have instituted this season after giving up an NBA-worst 110 points per game a season ago.
"I think we also really been concentrating on trying to defend and trying not to give up easy baskets so a lot of the energy is gone there," he said.
But regardless of the reason, the hard truth that Wolves fans must hear is that this simply isn't a team that is going to be able to push the tempo.
"And sometimes you just really don't have the group that is a great running team and I think right now that is probably true," Adelman said.
"The Skittles help," Beasley said about the pain in his foot, right before taking another handful of his favorite candy.
The Wolves have two days off and after their first of two back-to-back-to-back stretches and will be able to get in a rare, much-needed practice.
They head to the road for a two-game southern road trip starting Friday at New Orleans (3-6) and ending Saturday at Atlanta (7-3).