'Inexcusable' second half drop-off costs Wolves in loss to Warriors
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Rock-bottom hasn't been reached yet, but the Minnesota Timberwolves are dangerously approaching it.
In what could easily be labeled the most disappointing loss of their recently downtrodden season, the Wolves let a 20-point first half lead disintegrate as they collapsed in the second en route to a 97-94 loss -- their fourth straight -- to the lowly Golden State Warriors Wednesday night at the Target Center.
An energized start by the Wolves turned into a despairingly ugly final 24 minutes void of the drive and defensive fortitude necessary to avoid seeing their season fall further out of control.
"It's effort. They beat us to every loose ball. They beat us on every play. They beat us to every loose dribble. Everything," said coach Rick Adelman, aptly reflecting the pent-up aggravation permeating the team.
"If that's what you're going to do when things start turning a little bit south on you and you're just going to quit on the (defensive) end then you're never going to win."
Golden State recovered from a woeful opening, boosted by the Wolves' all-too abundant mental lapses, to go on a game-changing 44-19 run in the third quarter. The Wolves nearly survived the embarrassing defeat with a late rally, but they ended the night reeling from having their already slim playoff hopes take another likely fatal hit.
"We deserved every boo we got," said Kevin Love, who spoke in a near-whisper while never lifting his head when addressing reporters after the game. "We dug deep to come back. It should have never come to that. We should have maintained the lead and continued to play hard."
Love recorded 29 points and 12 points, and Wayne Ellington was one point shy of his career-high with 17. However, their outputs didn't prevent the Wolves' lackadaisical second half from severing their chances at ending their current losing skid.
Warriors scoring leader David Lee was his usual self with a 31-point, eight-rebound night, powering his team to its first victory in seven games.
The discrepancy between the two halves was staggering.
The Wolves, relying on hot shooting from Love and Nikola Pekovic, built an 11-point lead on the Warriors, who appeared disheveled at times early on, four minutes into the second quarter that enlarged to 20 by the two-minute mark.
But Golden State abruptly snatched the role of the aggressor just before halftime in a tempo reversal that ultimately cost the Wolves the game.
"We were very active and then we just went into relaxation-mode," Adelman said. "It's inexcusable. I just don't understand what was going through our minds."
Starting with less than two minutes left, defense became an unattainable attribute. The Warriors weaved and bullied their way through the lane, dropping a succession of points near the basket -- 22 in the third quarter alone. In fitting fashion, Lee laid in an easy bucket that leveled score late in the quarter.
"It seems the further the season has gone on the worst we've gotten on defense," Love said. "It's kind of supposed to go the other way."
It didn't end there. Golden State went up by as much as nine in the fourth before the Wolves gathered enough wherewithal to draw even with a minute to go. The surge was halted when guard Charles Jenkins cut to the basket, free of any defenders, cut to the hoop for the eventual winning bucket.
Golden State's revival in the third quarter at the Wolves' expense was an occurrence the home team never recovered from.
19: Turnovers by the Wolves, with seven coming from guard J.J. Barea in his return from injury.
24: Points scored by the Warriors off those 19 turnovers.
4-11: The Wolves' record since star guard Ricky Rubio was lost for the season March 9 with an ACL tear.
Guard Luke Ridnour's status for the remainder of the season is in question.
It was a foreboding scene Monday when Ridnour had to be carried off the court after spraining his ankle in the third quarter of the Wolves' 116-108 loss to Sacramento. Following the game, the swelling inflated as Ridnour was confined to crutches.
One day later, prominent swelling and discoloration is still lingering. Adelman labeled Ridnour's return date as "indefinite."
"I don't expect him for a week or so. I don't see how he'd be able to come back (before then)," Adelman said.
Without Ridnour, the Wolves' point guard situation becomes treacherously hazy. Oft-injured guard J.J. Barea, who spent the road trip at home nursing a deep thigh bruise, knew his return would be desperately needed as soon as he saw Ridnour collapse on the court.
"I was watching the game and I was like 'Oh no, here we go. I've got to go to sleep now,'" Barea said pre-game.
While not yet at fully healed, Barea remarked that he was already planning on being back in the lineup Wednesday, having spent every day last week rehabbing from the injury that caused him to miss five straight games.
Though he logged a surprising 36 minutes, Barea was clearly not in top form. He committed seven turnovers -- several of which cost the Wolves a needed swing in momentum.
Forward Michael Beasely is aiming to make his return Saturday after sitting out eight of the past 13 games with a sprained toe. Swelling has persisted in the left big toe, but he has been able to maintain a steady workout regimen.
"It feels better -- definitely better then yesterday or last week," Beasley said. "Ice has been my best friend for this last week."
"He's putting up video game-type numbers... He's in the MVP discussion. I don't have him winning it, because obviously the team isn't one of the top teams. But the guy has had an incredible year scoring, shooting from 3-point range, posting up and he will be an all-time great rebounder."
-- Golden State Warrior coach Mark Jackson, offering his reaction to Kevin Love's statistically dominant season.
"His stats were off the charts. If we hadn't had him through all these injuries I don't know how we would have been able to maintain. He certainly deserves that."
-- Rick Adelman, discussing Love's prospects for being named the NBA's Player of the Month for March prior to the game. It was later learned Love was slighted by the league, with the honor going to Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant.
The injury-riddled Wolves get a welcomed, but rare back-to-back days off before traveling to New Orleans to face the Hornets on Saturday (8 p.m. FSN).
Saturday's game will serve as the season series clincher as the two squads split their two previous meetings. The Hornets -- the Western Conference's worst team (13-40) -- handed the Wolves a 95-89 defeat on March 10 at the Target Center in the second loss of their current 2-9 slide.