Two more injured as Wolves are eliminated with eighth straight loss
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The writing had been on the wall for the better part of two weeks, but the Minnesota Timberwolves were officially eliminated from playoff contention with Thursday's 95-82 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Playing without Kevin Love, who was flying back to the Twin Cities after staying overnight in Denver because of a concussion and strained neck, the Wolves played a spirited first half but were simply no match for one of the premier teams in the Western Conference.
Their eighth straight loss came in fitting fashion for how their season has unraveled.
J.J. Barea had to leave the game in the second quarter to get eight stitches on his lip. He returned to start the second half but could never regain the rhythm he had in the first half, in which he posted 10 points and 10 assists.
In the second half, Anthony Tolliver left the game for undisclosed reasons, leaving the Wolves with only seven warm bodies to finish the game -- eight if you count Barea and his busted chops.
"I tried to get some guys out of the game and I look down the bench and I didn't have anybody," Adelman said.
Tolliver was instructed in the locker room not to disclose details about his injury, so he wasn't exactly forthcoming with details.
"Precautionary," Tolliver said. "Got my bell rung."
The loss dropped the Wolves to 25-35 and ended their April losing streak to 24 games. Number 25 could easily be on the horizon, with Western Conference frontrunner Oklahoma City coming to Target Center on Saturday.
The once-promising Wolves season has continued in a downward spiral since Ricky Rubio was lost for the season on March 9 in a loss to the Lakers.
The Wolves were 21-20 and in the thick of the playoff hunt, but since his exit, the Wolves have gone 4-15 and are in the midst of a season-long losing streak.
"I don't think people understood how much Ricky meant to our group," Adelman said.
But it wasn't just Rubio the Wolves lost. Love, Nikola Pekovic, Michael Beasley, Luke Ridnour, Barea and Wayne Ellington have also missed games in a run of injuries that Adelman says he has never seen in his 21-year career.
"The timing of (the injures) too, I've never seen," Adelman said. "When Ricky went down, we went on a seven-game trip back to the west, and at that time we lost Pek, Beasley, we just started losing people, then J.J. went down and Luke went down and it has been one thing after another."
But the Wolves had chances to down the stretch to turn things around even after the body count started to rise. They failed to win close games, failed to turn a win into a winning streak and ultimately ran out of steam.
"We thought we were right there (in the playoff hunt)," he said. "And even with some of the injuries, there were some games we should have won. We didn't get it done and that is on us. You can talk about the injuries and you can use that but that is all part of the being in the playoff picture, teams have stepped up."
The Wolves have six games left this season to try to end on some type of positive note, and they've vowed to keep fighting despite seeing NBA-long streak without a playoff berth extended to nine years.
"We will just keep fighting," Michael Beasley said. "It is all we can do."
Said Barea, "It can't get much worse, man. It can't get much worse."
The Wolves only trailed by five points heading into the fourth quarter, but that was when they hit the wall for good. The Clippers turned that five-point lead into a 12-point lead with a 7-0 run to start the fourth quarter.
4: Point-assist double-doubles in the past 15 years in the franchise after Barea did it Thursday.
12: Consecutive games without a free-throw attempt for Wesley Johnson before he attempted two on Thursday.
Adelman said the plan is to have Love looked at by the team's doctors, but he hadn't seen or talked to his All-Star forward since he left the court on Wednesday.
The league has a mandated concussion test that players must pass so the talk before they return to the court now turns to whether or not Love will return at all this season. The Wolves only have six games left and the season is over two weeks from Thursday.
"With the situation we are in right now, if he is out five days he is going to miss three or four games and the season is pretty well gone by then anyway," Adelman said. "But I think they will give us better information on that when he gets back (Thursday night) and we will talk to him Friday."
Concussions have been a hot-button issue throughout sports ,with new studies that show the long-term effects they have. That wasn't the case when Adelman was playing from 1968 to 1975.
"Back then, there were actually fights in our league," Adelman said. "There were some pretty hard-hitting fights and I don't think 'concussion' was ever a term used, like 'stress fracture' is now a big term now and it was just shin splints back then.
"There is so much more awareness now and treatment and it is certainly more serious because of what is happening in all sports."
• Luke Ridnour missed his fifth straight game with a sprained right ankle he suffered last week in a loss at Sacramento. Adelman said Ridnour is getting closer, but there wasn't a chance he was going to be able to go against the Clippers.
"Of all the guys we have, when (Ridnour) can play, he'll play," Adelman said. "I certainly hope he gets closer. I would love to see him out there, because right now, we only have J.J. as our ball handler."
• Ellington missed his second consecutive game with back spasms and is listed as day-to-day.
• Darko Milicic sat out his seventh straight game with a strained hamstring.
--The chanting fans in section 121 whenever Blake Griffin did anything of note, especially after he missed a wide-open dunk in the first quarter.
Friday will be a day off for the Wolves after a back-to-back against teams in the thick of the playoff picture. With seemingly everybody on the roster banged up, they won't practice.
On Saturday, the Thunder (42-16) make their second and final appearance at Target Center this season. The Wolves have lost both previous games to the Thunder but were in both contests, including the double-overtime thriller in Oklahoma City on March 23. Overall, the Thunder have taken 11 straight from the Wolves dating back to 2009, when the Wolves lit up the Thunder 129-87 at Target Center.