Timberwolves lose to Thunder, still searching for a leader
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MINNEAPOLIS -- In the fourth quarter of the Minnesota Timberwolves' 111-103 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, one thing became clear.
Through 22 games this season, the Wolves still do not have anyone that is capable of taking over a game and leading the team to victory.
"We really still don't have a leader on the team," coach Kurt Rambis said. "A go-to-guy, that calming force that takes control of the situation. We don't have that."
The leadership question is nothing new for the Wolves, Rambis has said since preseason that a leader will need to emerge from this team, but playing against NBA scoring king Kevin Durant makes the need that much more glaring.
In the fourth quarter Wednesday, Durant was 4-for-8 from the field, including 2-for-4 from behind the arc for 11 points. He also managed to grab six rebounds and dish two assists.
"Anytime they get in trouble, they give it to Durant and everyone else goes 'Well ok, everything's good now, everything is fine,'" Rambis said. "We have to reach for that guy, we have to find a guy like that."
Expecting anyone on this team to put up Durant-like numbers is expecting way too much out of a team that is the youngest in the league, but the players know they cannot continue to allow winnable games to slip away.
"We are a young team, everyone knows that, but we have to stop using that as an excuse," Beasley said. "We need to find a way to grind it out, the last two minutes of the game.
The Wolves scored a season-high 40 points in the 1st quarter and jumped out to a 19-point lead but once again couldn't close a team out.
"We were trying to count it out (in the locker room), (there have been) like seven our eight games that could have gone our way and should have gone our way," Love said. "We will get better. There will come a point where we will turn that corner and we will get better."
It's not to say that Love and Beasley didn't play well, either.
Love finished with 22 points and 21 rebounds. In doing so he posted his fifth 20 point-20 rebound game of the season, his league leading 17th double-double, and his eighth consecutive game with 15+ rebounds.
Beasley overcame early foul trouble -- a problem that has begun to plague him of late -- to score a team-high 26 points.
The lack of leadership doesn't have to fall solely on the shoulders of 21-year-old Beasley and 22-year-old Love, either.
Luke Ridnour was brought in as a free agent to provide veteran presence to this team and provide a calming influence running the point but so far Rambis said he hasn't seen that out of the 29-year-old.
"Not finding it yet, no," Rambis said. "But he is still learning what we want to do out there too."
"(Leadership) falls one everyone's shoulders. We are all responsible for it. All of us are," Rambis said.
Although it isn't guaranteed to help them close-out games, the Wolves can take solace in the fact that reinforcements are on the way.
Darko Milicic was held out because of the quad contusion he suffered Monday night in New York and is still listed as day-to-day and isn't expected to miss significant time.
Martell Webster was cleared to play this week and is set to make his debut Friday against the Detroit Pistons. Webster has missed the entire regular season after he underwent lower-back surgery on Oct. 25.
Lastly, Jonny Flynn was reassigned to the Wolves NBDL affiliate Sioux City Skyforce to play in back-to-back games this Friday and Saturday as the final stage of his rehab from hip surgery.
If Flynn gets over the last hurdle without any setbacks he will presumably join the team ahead of next Tuesday's game at Golden State and potentially make his 2010 debut against the Warriors.