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Updated: November 29th, 2013 4:31pm
Finding cure to defensive woes the focus as Wolves return to practice

Finding cure to defensive woes the focus as Wolves return to practice

by Nate Sandell
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The raw frustration felt after the Timberwolves' energy-lacking loss to the Denver Nuggets seemed to have subsided when the team returned to practice on Friday.

It was the Wolves' first full practice in nearly two weeks, and with Wednesday's defeat having dropped them to their fifth loss in six games, the time to regroup was much needed.

Coach Rick Adelman was left disgruntled in his postgame address after the Wolves' unfulfilling effort against the Nuggets put them below the .500 mark (8-9), criticizing his team for continual defensive breakdowns that have proven to be costly. Those sentiments carried over into the locker room, where the players expressed building frustration from the self-inflicted mistakes.

But with not much time to dwell, Friday's film session and practice was the Wolves' chance to start figuring out a solution to their reoccurring inconsistencies. The emphasis was simple: Defense.

"It's one of those times of the year that teams go through," guard Kevin Martin said. "We did a lot of defensive things today and mixed in a little offense. Our defense is our weakness. We have to turn it around there."

The recent defensive issues have sprouted out of their transition game.

In the Wolves' first 11 games, a stretch in which they went 7-4, they were defending against the fastbreak at the sixth-best rate in the NBA (10.8 points allowed). Those numbers have since taken an abrupt wrong turn. The Wolves, who give up around 100 points per game, have surrendered 115 points off the fastrbreak in their last six games (19.2 ppg) -- the league's worst average in that stretch.

"We know we're not good defending one on one, but we can be good defending as a team," Ricky Rubio said. "We showed that the first few games ... We have to help each other out. I think we're not talking. We're out there defending one on one and that's not the way we want to do it. It's just effort."

The Wolves won't have to wait long for a true test of whether or not the remedy to their losing slump can take root quickly.

Starting with a trip to Dallas Saturday, the Wolves face a four-game stretch all against dangerous playoff-caliber squads (San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Miami).

"It's going to show what team we can be," Rubio said. "We want to win. We need to win. The way we have to do it is to improve our defense."

Mbah a Moute to play Saturday?

The Wolves' newest addition, veteran forward Luc Mbah a Moute, was not at practice.

Traded from the Kings on Monday, Mbah a Moute was in Minneapolis two days later to meet his new team. But he had to make his way back to Sacramento Friday to finish moving his gear to Minnesota.

Mbah a Moute has not been able to practice with the Wolves since the trade, apart from a brief shootaround session. Though his integration into the rotation is likely to be gradual as a result, Adelman said Mbah a Moute will "probably get an opportunity" to make his Wolves debut against the Mavericks, at least in a limited capacity.

Budinger still on the mend

Chase Budinger has not been cleared to return to practice yet, but he has been able to work on his shooting for the last two weeks.

In a rehab session after Friday's practice, Budinger, who is recovering from surgery to repair lingering damage in his left meniscus, appeared to be getting a bit more spring on his jump shot than he was a week ago.

There is still no set window of when Budinger could be back. He has been out since late September.

Nate Sandell is a contributor to 1500ESPN.com.
Email Nate | @nsandell
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