Rick Adelman not pleased with starters after loss in preseason opener
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The preseason is for tweaking and adjusting.
And it was evident as the Minnesota Timberwolves kicked off their eight-game exhibition slate Monday against international squad CSKA Moscow that they have plenty to do.
With a crew of newcomers, products from a busy offseason trying to gel around Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Co., the Wolves are certainly a work in progress. As for any preseason opener, cohesiveness and rhythm are expected to be sometime fleeting traits, and that was especially the case Monday night.
Minnesota battled a sluggish performance by its starters against a disciplined and energetic output from its Russian counterpart, in an eventually close affair that culminated in a coach's preseason dream: Overtime
It took the Wolves' second unit, fronted by forward Derrick Williams (21 points, nine rebounds) and guard A.J. Price (14 points), to grab only their second lead of the game more than five minutes into the fourth quarter. But after faltering late, the Wolves were dropped to a 108-106 loss. It was only the third time a Euroleague team has defeated an NBA squad in North America.
Simply put, coach Rick Adelman was not pleased.
"Our starters didn't come here ready to play at all tonight," Adelman said.
"I just didn't like the way we played. We didn't share the ball like we have in practice. They tried to body us and be physical with us. If we're going to allow them to do that we're not going to be able to get into an offense against them ... We've got to play with more passion than that."
The discrepancy in energy that clearly unsettled Adelman showed up early on. Sporting a starting lineup of Love, Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and newcomers Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer, the Wolves opened 0-of-7 from the floor and eventually fell behind by as much as 18 points by the second quarter.
CSKA Moscow, with a lineup that had the obvious benefit of already established chemistry, aggressively went after the Wolves, who were slow to react. Martin, a sleek-shooting new addition, led the starters with 16 points, but like his other first unit teammates, accuracy was left to be desired (5-of-15).
"We were just very casual," Adelman said. "I didn't think the starters moved the ball at all, had any thought about spacing or what the other team was doing to us. We're not going to win that way."
The slow adjustment for the offense can be overlooked just given the high-scoring potential on the roster. But concern arose defensively, where the Wolves were badly exposed at times.
Milos Teodosic, a star for the Serbian national team, unfurled a game-high 26 points to anchor a balanced offensive attack by Moscow that took the Wolves until Adelman benched his starters in the third quarter to start successfully countering.
Brewer acknowledged the numerous disjointed moments, but counted them as necessary evils for a team, which has been injected with a surge of increased expectations, that is trying to find a cohesive identity.
"It's going to take time when you have new guys," said Brewer, who signed back with the Wolves in July after stops with Dallas and Denver. Defense, we have to play better. Offense is going to come. We're going to score points. We have enough weapons to score points. But defensively we were bad."
The opportunities to correct those issue abound in the week ahead. Monday was the start of four games in six days, with a road trip to Toronto and Sioux Falls up next before returning home Saturday to face the Toronto Raptors.
Adelman, for one, is hoping for much better.
"Exhibitions are about seeing where we're at, and we saw a lot tonight," he said.