Love's return can't make up for Wolves' poor outing in loss to Dallas
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The return of All-Star forward Kevin Love was not enough to help the Minnesota Timberwolves' cause on Friday in a sloppy, error-riddled 104-97 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Love, back in the lineup after serving a two-game suspension for stepping on Houston's Luis Scola last week, had no drop-off in his output, tallying his 23rd double-double of the season with 32 points and 12 rebounds.
It did nothing to help ease the Wolves' bounty of mental lapses.
Careless passes and ill-advised ball handling added up to a season-high 27 turnovers. The Mavericks, who avoided being swept in the season series, seized the lead less than two minutes into the game and never yielded, despite a Wolves' rally in the fourth quarter that was rendered useless because of turnovers.
Coach Rick Adelman didn't shy away from venting his warranted frustrations about his team's sub-par Friday night performance.
"I'm just very disappointed with the way our concentration was," Adelman said. "The turnovers were disastrous. We never gave ourselves a chance."
Dallas standout Dirk Nowitzki, who said earlier this week that he wasn't deserving of his spot on this year's All-Star squad, was in vintage form. The seven-foot forward constantly tormented the spotty Wolves' defense. With his opponent occasionally sagging off him, Nowitzki unloaded 33 points (11-of-19 from the floor, 4-of-7 from 3-point range). Guard Jason Terry followed behind him with 16.
"It's not like we don't know him and Jason Terry can shoot," Adelman remarked. "So why would you not move up as the ball is coming to him instead of waiting for him to catch it and then start to move, and then he just lets it go. That's just concentration."
After capturing an above .500 record earlier in the week, the Wolves (13-14) have now lost back-to-back games in similar fashion.
"We have to get back to doing the little things that have gotten us to where we are -- a chance to compete for a playoff spot," guard Luke Ridnour said.
Lack of offense from the Wolves resulted in Dallas creating a large early lead. The Wolves' disjointed and, at times, completely flustered play lasted for the majority of the first half. They opened shooting 3-of-12 from the floor, laboring to settle into a rhythm. The turnover outbreak started right away as their total hit 14 by halftime.
"We were so casual tonight. I just didn't understand it," Adelman said.
The Mavericks meanwhile breezed into a double-digit lead six minutes into the game, where they would stay for the remainder of the night.
For a moment in the second quarter it appeared the Wolves had smoothed out their offensive issues, cutting the deficit to five with seven minutes to go in the half. But the two squads settled into a back-and-forth stalemate until Dallas spurred itself back into control to put the Wolves down 56-45 heading into the locker room.
Adelman's halftime speech fell on deaf ears as the Wolves' struggles carried over into the third quarter. Nowitzki settled into a groove once again, helping to increase the deficit to as many as 17 points.
Towards the tail-end of the third quarter, Dallas was overcome by a brief slump to which the Wolves responded with a short-lived comeback. Using a 16-3 run, they cut the lead to three points by the 10:35 mark in the fourth.
However, the Wolves' poor-decision making returned. Any opportunity of moving in front was snatched away by the Mavericks in a matter of minutes. Dallas' lead was back in double-digits with eight minutes remaining, eliminating the glimmer of hope the Wolves had.
"We just threw passes away when we had worked hard defensively to get the ball back," Adelman said. "We just threw it away like there was no value to the ball. That's how we were at the start of the year."
Failure to find a string of lasting consistency was the Wolves' downfall. The Mavericks' scoring pace had fallen off enough in the fourth quarter to open up the possibility of a lead change, but the Wolves never fully capitalize, further increasing Adelman's fury.
13-14: The Wolves' record, dropping them to 11th place in the Western Conference -- two games out of the final playoff spot.
20: Points scored by forward Michael Beasley, who continues to be used in an off-the-bench role.
10: Number of times in 27 games season that the Wolves have allowed an opponent to pass the 100-point threshold.
• Currently on a rehab assignment in the NBA D-League, rookie guard Malcolm Lee recorded nine points (4-of-9) and seven assists on Friday in his second game with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Adelman told reporters prior to the game that Lee, who is recovering from a knee injury, is expected to rejoin the Wolves at some point next week.
"I have no idea. I wish I did."
-- Adelman, when asked if he could identify the reason for his team's concentration issues.
"His ability to go get the ball and generate extra possessions -- he is the best I've ever seen do it for a guy who now spots out on the 3-point line and still gets in there and rebounds."
-- Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, on Kevin Love's selection to his second straight All-Star game.
"That's the Dirk I know. That is definitely the vintage Dirk I've been watching for how many years he's been playing now. He's a Hall of Fame player, and when he decides he wants it he is going to have success."
-- Love, addressing Nowitzki's recent resurgence as the Mavericks' dominating force.
The Wolves have less than 24 hours to figure out how to remedy what went wrong on Friday. They return to the Target Center floor on Saturday to face-off against the New York Knicks, who will also be playing in their second game in two days. The Knicks (12-15) moved closer to the .500 mark with a win against the L.A. Lakers on Friday.