Wolves are unable to take advantage of opportunities, fall at Memphis
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Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman had stressed the importance in recent days of seeing his team win three or four games in a row to get back into the playoff picture.
That sounded good in theory, but at this point it's not happening.
After beating the Denver Nuggets on Sunday at Target Center following a 2-5 road trip, the Wolves returned to the road on Tuesday and lost 93-86 to the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Wolves led for much of the third quarter, but the Grizzlies took control for good after a Zach Randolph layup with 34 seconds left in the third gave the Grizzlies a 68-67 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
But that was as close as the Wolves would get.
Ellington had a chance to trim the lead to three points, but his long shot fell short. The Grizzlies won the foul-and-free-throw game and recorded their seventh victory in a row against the Wolves.
Since beating the Trail Blazers on March 7 and putting themselves in playoff position, the Wolves are 3-8 and now firmly on the outside looking in. Overall this season, the Wolves are 11-15 on the road.
They are now 3.5 games behind Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and trail two other teams (Houston and Phoenix).
The Wolves were once again without guard J.J. Barea and center Nikola Pekovic after the two remained in the Twin Cities to continue rehabbing their injuries.
The Wolves appeared to catch a break on the injury front when it was announced before the game that All-Star center Marc Gasol of the Grizzlies would miss his first game of the season because of a sprained ankle.
Two days after a hot shooting performance gave them an easy victory over the Nuggets, the Wolves shot only 38.8 percent in the loss. Take out the combined 16 of 32 shots made by Love and Ellington and the rest of the Wolves shot a combined 32 percent.
Love finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds in 38 minutes for another double-double. He also added four blocks, two assists and a steal.
The only other Wolves starter in double-figures was Derrick Williams, who scored 14 points in a team-high 41 minutes.
Ellington scored 15 points off the bench and now has put together four consecutive double-digit scoring games -- a feat only accomplished one other time in his career. He played 27 minutes -- five more than starter Wesley Johnson -- and added two rebounds, an assist and a steal.
Ridnour -- coming off a season-high 25-point performance against Denver - made only four of 13 shots in 38 minutes and it appeared his injured groin was bothering him more than it was against Denver. There was some question about whether Ridnour was healthy enough to play, but after Barea didn't make the trip the Wolves had little choice but to use the veteran.
The Grizzlies were led by Rudy Gay's 21 points, and Dante Cunningham added season highs of 13 points and 14 rebounds.
The Wolves led by as many as seven points in the third quarter and were within striking distance in the fourth before the Grizzlies went on a 10-2 run that was capped by Marreese Speights sinking a 5-foot jumper to take an 11-point lead
91: Three-pointers this season for Love, a high for him after he made 88 in 73 games last season. It took him only 47 games to surpass last season's total.
0: Three-point percentage by the Grizzlies, who won despite going 0-11 from behind the arc.
0: Minutes combined for Darko Milicic and Anthony Randolph. Adelman said Tuesday that he might be forced to play one of them because of injuries, but it was evident he wasn't thrilled about rewarding them with playing time after he has made it clear they are not in basketball shape.
Barea did not make the two-game trip because of a thigh contusion. The team decided that three flights in three days was not a good idea given the swelling in Barea's thigh.
"He must have gotten hit pretty good because there is a lot of swelling," Adelman said. "Usually guys can play through that, but his is just really stiff and swollen."
The Wolves are hoping Barea can return Friday against Boston at Target Center.
Injuries were going to be a factor during this condensed season, but Barea can't seem to stay on the court. He has played in 30 of the team's 51 games, while dealing with ankle, hamstring and thigh issues.
"He's just had so many injuries and it just keeps putting him out and throwing off his rhythm," Adelman said.
The latest setback comes at a particularly frustrating time because Barea had seemed to finally get into the type of rhythm that made him a fixture with the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks last season.
Barea had 10-plus assists in his past three games and put together his first career triple-double in last Friday's double-overtime loss at Oklahoma City.
There was no further information on Pekovic's status. He was ruled out for the current trip on Sunday and the team is hoping the pain will subside so Pekovic can resume the season before undergoing offseason surgery to remove bone spurs in his ankle.
Another night, another flight. The Wolves left for Charlotte after the game where they play the second of back-to-back games on Wednesday night.
The Bobcats (7-40) are comically-inept this season and have their hopes set on owning the most ping-pong balls in the NBA draft lottery this summer -- something the Wolves know a little bit about.
The Wolves then return to Target Center on Friday to face Kevin Garnett and the Celtics at home for the only time this season. It will be only their second game at home since March 12.