Poor shooting, waning energy doom Wolves in loss to Golden State
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Golden State provided the Timberwolves a reality check Wednesday night.
After turning heads with their quick start to the year, the Wolves had an opportunity against the Warriors to get an early season test of where they stack up against the Western Conference's top tier.
By the end of the night, Minnesota was left with a good indication that it has a ways to go.
A high-powered, aggressive scoring attack propelled the Wolves to three straight wins to start the year. The rhythm, both offensively and defensively, seen at times in that stretch has dimmed in the course of two games.
The struggles to find the basket that haunted the Wolves Monday at Cleveland (36.2 percent shooting from the floor) in their first loss of the season carried through enough for the Warriors to capitalize in a 106-93 defeat.
The loss caused coach Rick Adelman to repeat the warning of complacency, which he'd referred to before the season even began, that can hinder skilled, but largely unproven teams.
"Sometimes when you have success early in the season you think you arrived or something," Adelman said postgame. "It almost gives you false security because you've won some games. Now we're playing some good teams and we're finding out about ourselves. Tonight we weren't ready to play this team. They were better they were."
For one quarter, the Wolves looked the part of a Western Conference upstart. Minnesota led by as much as eight points in the first frame, eventually cut down to a 28-26 lead, with Golden State's stud backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson held to a 2-of-6 shooting mark.
Whatever momentum or energy gained from their initial outburst, the Wolves could do nothing to hold on to it.
In the first 12 minutes, the Wolves were boasting a 48.1 shooting percentage. From that point on, they shot an alarming 33 percent. A poor showing from their second unit in the second quarter was followed by an equally disjointed effort from the starter once Adelman signaled their return.
Surprisingly, Golden State was in front by only three at halftime. But when the Warriors gave Minnesota openings to regain control, especially midway through the third quarter, the Wolves came up flat.
"We just never sustained anything at either end of the court," Adelman said. "We were in a frenzy like we were going to win the game with one possession. We could not get any rhythm going at all. You could just see it."
Mentally and physical, the Wolves could not match Golden State in the second half. The inconsistencies in energy weren't exclusive to the offense. As soon as the lapses became prolonged defensively, Thompson and Co. kicked into gear.
Thompson scored 26 of his game-high 30 points in the final two quarters, while Andre Iguodala and David Lee kept the Wolves reeling inside with a combined 42 points on the night. A mini Wolves rally in the third quarter was squashed as the Warriors never allowed them closer than eight in the fourth quarter.
Golden State wasn't even in top form, but was still able to hold command over the Wolves. Curry, who tried to play through a bone bruise and injured ankle, tallied just five points. Center Andrew Bogut, Iguodala and forward David Lee all battled foul trouble.
Chances were there. The Wolves couldn't garner the composure to capture them.
Five games into the season, it's not time to raise the alarm. But the mood in the locker room afterward was an indication that the Wolves were well aware the shortcomings Adelman had been concerned about had derailed them in an obvious way.
"We're not moving the ball," forward Corey Brewer said. "We didn't move the ball and we didn't play together. We can't do that if we want to be a good team. We've been moving the ball and playing together all year long. Tonight the ball kind of got stuck in places ... Sometimes you need a loss like this to learn."
Kevin Love, who produced his fifth straight double-double (25 points, 16 rebounds), and Kevin Martin (23 points -- 7-of-15) were the only silver linings for the Wolves offensively. Take out those numbers, the rest of the team shot a lowly 32 percent, with Ricky Rubio converting only two of his eight shots and Nikola Pekovic struggling inside (4-of-11, 10 points).
Problems from long range have also settled in. Martin has hit on more than half his 3-point attempts in the last two games (7-of-13), but his teammates haven't followed suit. Without Martin's numbers, the Wolves were 0-of-20 on three-pointers against Cleveland, improving to only 2-of-11 on Wednesday.
It comes back to the Wolves needing to find the ability to sustain a rhythm if they want to hold their own in the Western Conference this season.
"Tonight I think we learned a lesson of playing together for 48 minutes and playing hard for 48 minutes," Martin said.
Martin's theory will be challenged Friday against the Dallas Mavericks, a team the Wolves will have to forcefully counter.