Updated: November 27th, 2013 11:45pm
Frustration mounts as Timberwolves outdone by a lack of energy

Frustration mounts as Timberwolves outdone by a lack of energy

by Nate Sandell
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Timberwolves' frustration level hit a new peak by the end of the night Wednesday.

The inconsistent and sloppy play that has plagued the Wolves as of late boiled over in a dismal 117-110 loss to the Denver Nuggets. Glaring defensive lapses, little to no sustained energy, a bench that was outscored 47-10 by Denver, all culminated in the Wolves' fifth loss in six games.

"We just had [expletive] effort, plain and simple. That's what it was," Kevin Love said, epitomizing the Wolves' building aggravation in a markedly candid postgame Adelman.

From the opening tip onward, the Wolves could never fully wake up, fighting to find any type of boost. Denver fed off Minnesota's mistakes, exploiting the defensive breakdowns. By halftime, the Nuggets were being allowed to shoot 63.9% from the floor, making the Wolves look blatantly sluggish.

For all the issues the Wolves were having, Denver's lead never went over 15 points and Minnesota drew within one in the waning minutes of the game. But once again, the inability to consistently gel on defense, combined with 17 turnovers -- seven from Ricky Rubio - aided in deflating any chances the Wolves had of taking control.

"Just really disappointed with our effort, especially in the first half," coach Rick Adelman said. "Defensively we allowed them to do everything they wanted to do ... We have to figure out what we're going to do from this point forward, because you can't defend like that."

The blame for the Wolves' recent slide can be spread throughout the lineup, beginning with the starting-five and on to a bench that has produced similar lackluster performances. The concerted balance between offensive efficiency and defense the Wolves had in the first few weeks of the season has gone missing as of late.

The frustration spawned from Wednesday's loss was obvious throughout the game, from Rubio slamming his towel in anger on the bench to forward Corey Brewer yelling at his teammates during a timeout, imploring them to find a solution on defense.

While the season is only a month old, the Wolves are under the realization that the process of remedying the mistakes that have cost them games that were well within reach has to start now.

"I feel like we have to get some kind of swagger or energy or something," Brewer said. "I feel like we need to get an identity. We don't have an identity yet. Once we get an identity and we know who we are, I feel like we're going to be a good team."

Finding that identity will in large part rely on establishing at least a passable defense. Ever since training camp, Adelman has warned his team the still present defensive gaps would be costly if not corrected quickly. Adelman has also continually sent a stern reminder the Wolves have not reached the level the hype that has surrounded them this season might suggest.

Those warnings took on increased weight Wednesday.

"We have to realize we are not that good," Rubio said. "We can be that good, but only if we play hard, put in all the effort and play both ends of the court."

It is important not to read into the Wolves' release of pent up tension from a poor stretch as an indication that they are already coming unraveled. Only 17 games in and holding on to an 8-9 record, the window to form into a strong playoff caliber team is still large. But to get to that level, the Wolves are in need of an early season reawakening.

"I think we're just upset, because we know what this team is capable of," Love said. "We know we're a good team. You guys and the fans might think we may need to press the panic button, but we're not even thinking that way."

"A couple things go our way tonight, we don't make as many mistakes, quarters one through four, we win that game. We feel like we're a better team than them. Time will tell."

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