Kevin Love vents frustrations after loss, calls out pair of teammates
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves' late-game woes have escalated into a full-scale problem.
Up seven points with less three minutes remaining Wednesday night, the Wolves let another victory slip away in a disastrous 104-103 loss to the Phoenix Suns. It ran Minnesota's record up to 0-10 in games decided by four points or less this season, including their last four losses.
It also left an increasing cloud of frustration hovering over the Wolves (17-18), and even resulted in star Kevin Love calling out two of his teammates.
"We can't have two guys sitting at the end of the bench, who play good minutes, just sitting there and not getting up at timeouts," Love said. "We all need to be in this together. That kind of pisses me off. We're supposed to be a team."
Although Love did not use specific names in the interview, based on the fourth quarter scene on the bench all indications were that his frustrations were aimed at J.J. Barea and Dante Cunningham. Barea, who scored eight points in 13 minutes, clearly voiced he was unhappy when he was sent to the bench near the eight-minute mark in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Cunningham recorded three points and one rebound in a season-low 11 minutes.
Love kept going when asked again about the situation.
"It's to a point that where those two guys, if and when I did that last year when maybe I didn't sit out for the game for 48 minutes and so on and so forth, they would have killed me," Love said. "They would have aired me out. It's two guys we expect more from them, and I think they expect more from themselves."
"I'm not trying to single anybody out, and I don't want to make it bigger than it is. That was a team we needed to beat tonight. Even guys that didn't play any minutes, we need to have a team on the bench that's really in it together."
Guard Ricky Rubio said he didn't know exactly who Love was talking about, but his concern was obvious.
"Somebody is maybe frustrated because he didn't have the minutes he wanted or he wasn't in the game in the late situation," Rubio said. "If something happened, no matter if it's Coach's decision or whatever, you have to be with the team. I didn't see that, but if (Love) says that he saw something. We would have to talk, because that's even worse than losing the game. Not having the team together, that's terrible. We have to be a team."
While he insisted the Wolves still have plenty of promise, Love's pointed words were a troublesome sign of unrest and lingering problems for a squad that has now failed eight straight times to make it over the .500 mark.
It's also hard to overlook that Love's remarks came on a night in which he had his own share of struggles, battling one of his poorest performances of the season. Love finished with 15 points and a 4-of-20 mark from the floor, with his only fourth quarter points coming from the free throw line.
The Wolves had fought back from a 53-47 halftime deficit to take control of the game heading into the home stretch. But then things rapidly came unraveled.
Turnovers by Nikola Pekovic and Rubio aided in eventually giving the Suns' Gerald Green the opening he needed to hit the go-ahead jump shot with 3.9 seconds left. It proved to be the final blow. Wolves guard Kevin Martin had a good last-minute look to the right of the basket, but it, like Minnesota's fate in close games, fell short.
"I don't know how many ways I can say it," Adelman said when asked about the cause of his team's late collapses. "You have to defend down the stretch, we have to execute, you have to take care of the ball, guys have to make plays. I don't know what else to say. We haven't done that."
Stuck on the wrong half of the Western Conference standings, Minnesota is well aware the margin for error is closing quickly. The Wolves are in the midst of a stretch in their season that has been targeted as the best chance for them to make a run.
So far, consistency remains elusive. Opportunities are still there, with five of their next six games coming against opponents with losing records. But turning their season around means finding a way to finish off games and maintaining cohesion throughout the team.
"We've got to sit down and we've got to look each other in the face and say, 'We've got to win these games,'" forward Corey Brewer said. "Up five with two minutes to go, you have to win the game. If we're going to be a good team, make it to the playoffs, we have to win games."