Mistakes prove costly as Wolves' two-game winning streak ends
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman was concerned long before the Memphis Grizzlies ended his team's two-game winning streak with a 90-86 victory Wednesday night at Target Center.
"I felt at shoot-around this morning they were way too lax in their approach," a frustrated Adelman said of the Wolves. "You haven't won anything. How did you win them? Learn from them. Why you won those two games and build off them."
Instead, the Wolves got off to a slow start and came up short despite rallying from an early 15-point deficit and pulling ahead for the first time in the third quarter.
What ailed the Wolves? Take your pick.
They missed 11 free throws (13 of 24), committed 17 turnovers and gave up 23 points off those miscues. The Grizzlies, playing without the injured Zach Randolph, finished with 13 steals.
Tony Allen led Memphis with 20 points and Rudy Gay added 19. The Wolves' Kevin Love finished with a game-high 27 points and also had 14 rebounds.
The Wolves, who are now 2-2 on this five-game home-stand, were attempting to put together their first three-game winning streak since a stretch that ran from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, 2010.
The Wolves (2-4) also were trying to pull to .500 for the first time since the opening week of the 2010-11 season.
"We can't allow that to happen," guard Luke Ridnour said of the letdown. "We won two in a row. I think we got a little ahead of ourselves here. ... We've got to just really focus in at home. You've got to win those games."
The Wolves got off to a terrible start, making only one of their first 12 shots and falling behind by as many as 15 points in the first quarter. However, they had pulled within 20-14 by the end of 12 minutes.
"(I'm) just disappointed in the way we played tonight," Adelman said. "I didn't think the start of the game that we came into it with the right attitude. We can't afford to work our way into the game."
As has often been the case early in the season, Ricky Rubio provided his team with a spark off the bench.
The rookie point guard, who finished with 12 points and made both of his three-point attempts, checked into the game with the Wolves down by 12 and 4:53 left in the opening quarter.
The Wolves pulled within eight points when Rubio hit a three-pointer with 1:35 left. Memphis' lead was cut to six with 58.9 seconds remaining when a leaping Michael Beasley guided home an alley-oop type pass that Rubio made toward the basket.
The Grizzlies jumped out to an 8-0 lead and the Wolves did not get their first points of the game until Love hit a jumper with 7:37 left in the quarter.
The Timberwolves' cold shooting continued in the second quarter and when Love missed a jumper the Wolves were 9-for-29 from the field. The Grizzlies had increased their lead to 12 points at that point.
Beasley pulled the Wolves within 37-31 with about four minutes left with a three and the Wolves cut the deficit to four when Love made two free throws with 2:30 left.
The Wolves had two turnovers late, including one by Rubio, and Memphis went into the locker room with a 43-37 advantage.
Rubio had eight assists at the half -- he finished with 10 -- but also two of the Wolves' 10 turnovers. Those miscues led to 15 points by the Grizzlies.
Memphis was led by Gay's 11 points. Mike Conley had six assists.
The Wolves stormed back in the third quarter and took their first lead, 46-43, on Love's three-pointer with 9:36 remaining.
"We got back into it, then we had two or three really dull just bad three or four minutes where they opened it up on us each time," Adelman said. "We did come back and we did close it, but we don't have that much margin of error. We can't afford to do that as a team and it cost us tonight."
The Wolves led 59-57 after three quarters and were up by five points with 7:45 left in the fourth but could not hold on. O.J. Mayo made a three-pointer to cut the Wolves lead to 68-66 and after Ridnour missed a jumper, the Grizzlies came down and got a put back from Gay to tie it.
Memphis then went on a 13-0 run and never trailed again.
With the Wolves down 88-85 with 1.6 seconds left, Gay fouled Ridnour so he couldn't get a shot off. The strategy worked as Ridnour made his first free-throw but then committed a lane violation after purposely missing the second and then pursuing the ball too quickly.
"That wasn't the strategy, but I'm glad he did (it)," Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said of Gay's foul. "In a way he did; he just ran over him before he could (get) into the act of shooting and that made them have to miss.
"Fortunately for us, Luke, he did a great job of getting it off the front of the rim, but he ran in too quick. We were not ready for that. He didn't wait for everybody to get set. We were fortunate."
The score was tied at 68 with just over six minutes to go in the fourth quarter when the Grizzlies scored eight points as part of their 13-0 run to take a 76-68 lead. Memphis would not trail again.
"Eleven missed three throws. I'm getting tired of saying it," Adelman said. "The turnovers. It's too hard and we're right there to win the games and we make it so difficult on ourselves. ... We have to find a way. We keep telling them we have to get better and tonight those little things cost you in a close game."
• 5: Memphis' winning streak in this series.
• 28-12: Memphis' advantage in points in the paint in the opening half.
• 0-5: Wes Johnson's shooting from the field after he made all six of his shots from the field in the Wolves' victory over San Antonio on Monday.
• 0: Johnson's point total for the game, the first time this season he has been held scoreless.
• 5-for-16: Beasley's shooting performance for the night. He had only 11 points.
• 20-plus, 12 plus: Points and rebounds for Love in each of the Wolves' first six games. Love is the first player to accomplish that feat for his team in the first six games of a season since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it in 1975.
• J.J. Barea sat out again Wednesday because of a strained hamstring suffered Dec. 27 at Milwaukee. The guard has now missed three of the past four games.
Odds and ends
• With Randolph expected to be sidelined for two months because of a torn right medial collateral ligament suffered on New Year's Day, the Grizzlies acquired forward/center Marreese Speights from Philadelphia on Wednesday in a three-team trade. Memphis sent guard Xavier Henry to New Orleans and the Grizzlies and Hornets each dealt a second-round pick to the 76ers.
• Love, Beasley and Rubio will represent the Timberwolves on this season's All-Star Ballot. The game will be played on Feb. 26 at Amway Arena in Orlando. Love made his first All-Star Game appearance last season.
"It's a terrible feeling when you miss free throws in those moments. ... It's hard because you know that you are close, you can close it, but you miss easy things." - Rubio on the missed free throws in the defeat. He was 0-for-2 from the free-throw line Wednesday.
The Wolves will play the fifth and final game of this home stand at 7 p.m. Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Wolves swept the Cavs in two games last season, winning 129-95 on Dec. 4 at Target Center and 98-97 on Dec. 26 at Cleveland. The first victory ended a nine-game losing streak for the Wolves against Cleveland and also marked their biggest victory ever over the Cavs.
Cleveland holds an all-time record of 27-15 against the Wolves and is 13-8 at Target Center.