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Updated: December 27th, 2011 11:00pm
Wolves' late rally isn't enough to make up for subpar performance

Wolves' late rally isn't enough to make up for subpar performance

The Minnesota Timberwolves spent the first three-and-a-half quarters Tuesday night in Milwaukee  trying to throw away all the momentum and progress they built in a four-point loss to Western Conference power Oklahoma City the night before.

They then attempted to gain it back in the final six minutes.

It was too late.

The Wolves fell 98-95 to the Bucks at the Bradley Center, paying the price for 42 minutes of ineptitude.

The Wolves had the ball and trailed by three points with 7.1 seconds remaining but a Kevin Love three-pointer would not drop and they fell to 0-2 to start the season with games against last season's NBA Finals participants -- the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat -- looming this weekend.

The skinny

Assistant coach Terry Porter was the acting head coach for the night while Rick Adelman attended the funeral of his mother-in-law.

Porter went with the same starting lineup as the Wolves used in Monday night's home opener with Luke Ridnour, Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley, Darko Milicic and Love.

All the goodwill earned by Monday's near-upset of the Thunder was lost early in an ugly first half that saw the Wolves turn over the ball 13 times. Beasley had four fouls in the half and the Wolves gave up 60 points to a team they beat twice in the preseason.

The turnovers were especially troubling, considering the Wolves had 12 in the entire game Monday.

Love was the lone bright spot for the otherwise sluggish Wolves. Love's shot wasn't falling but he found ways to score, getting to the free-throw line by causing defenders to leave their feet with a variety of pump fakes.

The All-Star made 19-of-24 free throws -- both single game franchise records -- en route to a team-high 31 points and 20 rebounds in 40 minutes.

Rookie point guard Ricky Rubio, meanwhile, struggled to get much of anything going in Tuesday after an impressive debut Monday. Rubio had six highlight-reel assists in the Wolves opener but was held to four assists in 27 minutes off the bench Tuesday. He had six points, three steals and three turnovers and lacked the consistency and flair he showed against the Thunder.

This was the exact type of thing Adelman has warned would happen as Rubio gets used to playing in the NBA. 

With Porter on the bench, Rubio and his backcourt mate from the night before, J.J. Barea, didn't see as much time together. They finally got on the court together in the fourth quarter for an extended period when the Wolves began their final run but Barea had to leave because of an apparent hamstring injury and did not return.

Ridnour stepped back in and finished the game.

Ridnour proved he is still a valuable commodity to this team, finishing with 17 points on seven of 10 shooting and making two of two three-pointers. He also had three assists but turned over the ball four times in 34 minutes. Ridnour had played 17 minutes against Oklahoma City.

A night after scoring 24 points on 27 shots -- the most shots in the league Monday -- Beasley got in foul trouble early and turned over the ball three times before using eight fourth quarter points to boost his performance. He finished with 15 points on six of 13 shooting.

Rookie Derrick Williams saw his minutes drop while struggling against the Bucks. He played 18 minutes and scored three points on one of three shooting and had four turnovers.

It's difficult to win on the road when you fall behind 20 points in the NBA. The Wolves gave it their all late in the game but the early game struggles proved to be their undoing.

Numbers game

• 3: Times in the past two weeks the Wolves and Bucks have squared off if you include preseason games. The lockout shortened the season and caused teams to play a home-and-home with their nearest geographical opponent. The Wolves won both preseason contests but the Bucks won when it mattered.

• 3 minutes, 28 seconds: Left in the first quarter when Ricky Rubio made his first appearance, 12 seconds earlier than Monday night.

• 19: Made free throws by Love -- a single-game franchise record

• 24: Attempted free throws by Love -- also a single-game franchise record.

• 4: Personal fouls in the first half for Beasley in the second-consecutive game he has raised eyebrows for the wrong reasons.

• 0: Minutes for Anthony Randolph after playing only three minutes Monday night, the latest sign that he may not have a spot in the rotation.

Injury report

• Center Nikola Pekovic dressed but didn't play because of a strained groin for a second-consecutive night. Pekovic has sat out since suffering the injury last week in practice. Pekovic said his goal is to return to practice Wednesday or Thursday in order to be available Friday against the Heat.

• Barea left the game with 6:05 remaining in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be a hamstring injury after missing a fastbreak lay-up. He was attended to by trainers on the baseline before heading into the locker room and never returned.

Rubio starting?

The sold-out crowd at Target Center wanted Rubio to start Monday night. Intrigued Bucks fans wanted him to start Tuesday night. The likely sell-out crowd Friday at Target Center will want him to start then. Heck, even LeBron James announced on Twitter he was a fan of Rubio's ability to pass the ball.

But, according to Porter, fans will have to wait to see Rubio make his starting debut.

Porter, who joined "Judd & Phunn" on Tuesday morning on 1500 ESPN, said while the coaching staff has been impressed with the rookie, they are going to keep bringing him along slowly.

"We aren't trying to thrust him into situation where we feel we have to," Porter said. "We are just going to let him grow at a pace that we think is important for him to grow and let him continue to contribute.

"There is a lot of learning curve for him going forward and we just have to be patient at times and help him continue to understand things and help him grow."

Up next

The Wolves will return home where they will presumably be met by Adelman for two days of practice before welcoming LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and the rest of the Miami Heat on Friday for their only appearance in Minneapolis this season.

The brutal schedule to open the season isn't about to let up. After a day off on Saturday, the Wolves will play host to the reigning NBA champion Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 1.