Wolves caught again 'just going through the motions' in preseason loss
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Preseason or not, the Minnesota Timberwolves are in need of a wake-up call.
Coach Rick Adelman is hoping a markedly flat effort in a 104-97 loss Saturday night to the Toronto Raptors can be that trigger.
In Adelman's eyes, the only positive to come out of the Wolves' fourth game of the preseason was the film to show what went wrong.
"We just didn't come with it. I don't understand it," Adelman said, primed with obvious frustration. "It's like I told them afterwards, we've played two home games here (at the Target Center) and we're just going through the motions."
"What's the reason? Do you think that you're that good? That's what I told them ... I know it's the exhibition season, but we're trying to get better, and we really can't get better if we don't go out with better effort than we've shown."
For both the Wolves (2-2) and Raptors (3-1), Saturday was preseason basketball in its rawest form, saddled with defensive breakdowns, turnovers (42 combined) and fouls (60) aplenty.
A sluggish opening quarter set a tone the Wolves never broke out of. Shot after shot missed its mark as the Wolves stumbled to a preseason-low 36.4 shooting percentage from the floor. Despite an equally disjointed performance, the Raptors broke an 88-88 tie in the fourth quarter and didn't let the Wolves' second unit back in.
Two weeks and four games into the preseason, the Wolves' disconcerting energy level in two home losses has largely been centered on the starting-five.
Minus guard Kevin Martin, out for the second straight game with a sore right Achilles, the Wolves four main starters -- Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Corey Brewer -- played for the bulk of the first three quarters, their longest stretch on the court so far in the preseason.
Apart from 11 first quarter points from Love, offense was hard to come by for the Wolves early on. The control to attack quickly was not there. In total, they shot a lowly 26.1 percent (6-of-23) in the first 12 minutes, failing to capitalize on the openings the Raptors were providing to establish a foothold. With the reserve unit not able to provide much of a spark, the problems continued throughout the night.
"We're not the San Antonio Spurs. We're not Miami. We act like we have plenty of time," Adelman said. "It's disappointing the way we approached the game to start with."
While Rubio was 0-for-7 from the floor, Love, Pekovic and Brewer were eventually able to make a legitimate impact with a combined 53 points, but the inconsistencies all through the lineup were too much to overcome.
Rubio shared his coach's disappointment.
"We didn't start the game in the right way. We didn't have energy," Rubio said. "Part of that is my fault, so I take the blame on that. The point guard has to start the game, control the game and be aggressive."
The Wolves' second team was not free from fault either. Toronto strengthened in the waning minutes, while Minnesota fumbled through the final quarter, outscored 25-16.
Labeling a preseason game as a "wake-up call" is a bit rash, but Saturday was as close as it comes for a team high on potential, but a bounty of obvious raw edges.
"We don't have the luxury to be a team that fights from behind," Love said. "We're talented enough and we can score the basketball, but if we're going to win a big amount of basketball games we need to have better starts."
Luckily for the Wolves, they have time to sort out the issues. Eight days separates Minnesota from its next game -- a match-up with Boston that starts a final stretch of three games before opening the season at home against Orlando on Oct. 30.
As the Wolves attested, the regrouping period is much needed.