Injured and road-weary: Timberwolves prove to be no match for Spurs
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The Minnesota Timberwolves may have hit the wall in their 116-100 loss Wednesday to the Spurs in San Antonio.
Already down a starter with point guard Ricky Rubio in Colorado having reconstructive knee surgery, the Wolves also were without center Nikola Pekovic, who flew back to the Twin Cities earlier in the day to have his injured ankles examined.
The few signs of life the Wolves showed were brief as the Spurs were able to basically get whatever they wanted against a Wolves team that dropped to 2-4 on a seven-game trip. The Spurs, meanwhile, won their fourth in a row and fifth in the past six to improve to 30-14.
The Wolves are 2.5 games back of Houston for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with Utah and Phoenix also in the way.
The Spurs didn't even need starting point guard Tony Parker to dismantle the Wolves, after the veteran headed to the locker room with 8:03 left in the first half because of tightness in his left hamstring. Parker did not return and he didn't need to.
Veteran Tim Duncan showed he still has some run left in his Hall of Fame legs, scoring 21 points with 15 rebounds in 24 minutes.
Kevin Love wasn't the leading scorer for the Wolves in a relatively rare occurrence. Love played only 30 minutes and was able to sit down the stretch while the Spurs cruised. He finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
As Love put it so eloquently earlier this season, it is time for the Wolves to "nut-up" because the final game of the road trip doesn't get any easier. The best in the West awaits the Wolves on Friday when they visit Oklahoma City.
Coach Rick Adelman was once again forced to shakeup the starting lineup without Pekovic and he made it clear he won't be going back to Darko Milicic anytime soon.
The Wolves went small by starting Love in the middle and Derrick Williams at power forward. They were able to get away with it because Spurs center DeJuan Blair goes 6-foot-7.
But on this night, and with the injuries the Wolves have, there was little Adelman could have done to avoid defeat.
The Spurs outscored the Wolves 32-16 in the first quarter to set the tone as the visiting team shot only 33 percent from the field. Martell Webster's five points led the Wolves.
The Wolves managed to temporarily shake off whatever caused them to sleepwalk through the first 12 minutes and they showed some life in the second quarter going against the second-best team in the Western Conference.
The Spurs led by as many as 18 points in the second quarter but the Wolves made it 56-47 at halftime.
The Spurs, however, blew open the game in the third quarter, taking a 74-54 lead midway through the quarter. The Wolves would chip San Antonio's lead to 13 points with four minutes left the game but the Spurs never let them get any closer.
J.J. Barea was the Wolves' leading scorer with 18 points off the bench on seven of 13 shooting. He added 11 assists for his second consecutive double-digit assist game.
This one was practically over before it began. The Wolves were 2-0 against the Spurs this season with Rubio and Pekovic in the lineup, but they really stood no chance at the AT&T Center without them -- even with the Spurs playing much of the game without Parker.
0: Minutes for Milicic, despite the injury to Pekovic. Adelman has made it clear that he wants nothing to do with the veteran at this point.
1: Double-doubles this season for Barea, who notched his first of the season against the Spurs.
40: Double-doubles for Love this season, a figure that leads the NBA.
This continues to be a season defined by injuries for the Wolves.
Pekovic will miss Friday's game at Oklahoma City because of the ankle issues. The Wolves aren't giving any details and there likely won't be an update until Sunday when the Wolves play host to Denver.
Pekovic tried to play in Monday's victory over Golden State and made it only 11 minutes before heading to the locker room just after halftime.
Meanwhile, forward Michael Beasley (toe) was able to return after he left Monday's game after playing only 10 minutes in the loss to the Warriors. Beasley again played only 11 minutes Monday and scored four points on two of seven shooting.
The Wolves have one game remaining on the longest trip in franchise history. However, it's going to be another tough one with the Thunder having entered Wednesday's games with the third-best winning percentage in the NBA.
Oklahoma City edged the Wolves, 104-100, at Target Center in the regular-season opener.