Latest late-game collapse leaves Wolves reeling in frustration
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Kevin Love's typical postgame routine takes him close to 30 minutes before he exits the cold tub to come talk to reporters.
But on Sunday it was different. The scene in the locker room was somber as Love sat on a stool waiting, head down, with his face awash with a look of frustration and bitter disappointment.
One glance at Love told the story not only of the Wolves' latest collapse -- a 22-point first half lead that became a 127-120 loss to the Phoenix Suns -- but also of the mind-numbing spiral of inconsistency Minnesota has been stuck in all season long.
"We looked at that like that was our playoffs right there, and we lost," Love said, his voice filled with emotion. "This one hurts a lot more than the others."
In a season that has seemed like it's been stuck on repeat, Sunday's loss felt like so many of the other 33 that came before it. At one point in full command of the game, the Wolves imploded in the fourth quarter, nearly helpless to stop the Suns from thundering back to hand them a defeat that dropped them once again to a .500 record (34-34).
The collapse was as dramatic as any the Wolves have suffered this season. The rout was on early when Minnesota rumbled to its highest scoring half of the season with 73 points. In the third quarter, it was a matter of holding their ground, the lead standing at 10 entering the final frame.
Then, in the same tired fashion that has continued to hound the Wolves, they began to fall apart.
By the seven-minute mark in the fourth quarter the Suns had taken the lead. A back-and-forth exchange ensued. However, locked in a tie in the final minute, Phoenix hit the key shots, while the Wolves faltered.
Love's near triple-double wasn't enough (36 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists). Instead, his missed chance at a go-ahead three-pointer with 36.9 seconds left stood as another lost opportunity in a game and season filled with them.
Afterward, coach Rick Adelman epitomized the aggravation seething through the Wolves' locker room with a postgame interview that lasted just 90 seconds.
"What was the biggest difference? We didn't score," said Adelman, when asked what changed for his team in the fourth quarter.
Sunday wasn't the loss that severed the Wolves' playoff hopes. They had already put themselves a miracle away from ending a nine-year playoff drought, having entered the afternoon six games back of eighth place in the Western Conference with five weeks left in the season.
What the defeat did was deliver an extra-strength gut punch to the Wolves and what was seemingly a season of promise. Once again, it's been the same old story: Crushing offensive lapses and defensive breakdowns have repeatedly bogged down moments of playoff-caliber performance.
"We should have won that game, plain and simple," Love said.
That notion has been applied to the Wolves far too often.