Wolves' rally falls short as Kobe Bryant delivers daggers for Lakers
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Playing with fire finally caught up the Minnesota Timberwolves in Sunday's 106-101 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, costing them an opportunity to reach the .500 mark.
The Wolves had beaten the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs last week -- two teams they historically struggled against -- after rallying from double-digit deficits.
They once again came out flat against the Lakers -- a team that has now won 16 consecutive matchups between the teams dating back to 2007-- but couldn't overcome their early shooting woes to beat the franchise that once called Minneapolis its home.
"One thing that our guys learned was we have to play with energy all the time," coach Rick Adelman said.
The Lakers (12-9) entered with only one win in eight road games, including Saturday's loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Wolves (9-11) were surprisingly a two-point favorite.
Yet they appeared dead in the water before ending the third quarter on a 14-2 run that nipped a 19-point Lakers lead to five entering the final frame.
"Collectively, as a team. it took us too long to get going and that is kind of been an Achilles heel," forward Kevin Love said.
The momentum carried into the fourth quarter and the Wolves finally tied the game at 89 after Ricky Rubio hit a pull-up jumper with 5 minutes, 27 seconds to go. They took their first lead seconds later on Michael Beasley's tip-in and led 94-93 after Martell Webster's 3-pointer with 3:19 left.
But Andrew Bynum dunked at the other end to put the Lakers ahead for good and back-to-back jump shots from Kobe Bryant, who finished with a game-high 35 points, in the final minute sank the Wolves.
"Kobe is Kobe," Love said.
Adelman had told his team if they want to get to .500 they are going to have to beat teams like the Lakers to do it. There aren't any easy games on the schedule and they don't get to play any college teams.
The Wolves overcame shooting just 37.5% in an ugly first half that saw just about everybody on the team throw up a shot that missed the entire rim.
With Darko Milicic on the shelf because of a lingering illness, the Wolves were forced to start Darko Pekovic and in turn have him guard Paul Gasol.
The Lakers exploited the matchup of the four-time All-Star Gasol against the raw sophomore Pekovic throughout the game. The Spaniard -- and international teammate of Rubio -- scored 16 of his 28 points in the first half alone.
The Wolves switched a zone in the second half that boosted their energy level and sprung them on the 14-2 run that got them back in the game. Adelman switched his lineup to go with Webster, Beasley and Anthony Randolph to go along with Love and Rubio.
"They kind of slowed them down with the zone and had the pace pretty much where they wanted it," Adelman said.
Beasley played especially well of the bench, playing a controlled all-around game. He finished with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting, grabbed 12 rebounds and tossed three assists. Afterwards, he said he tweaked his problematic foot in the third quarter but wasn't concerned about it being an issue going forward.
Sometimes, basketball can be a simple game and Adelman put it best after the game when he described the difference in the fourth quarter.
"They made their shots and we didn't," he said.
Adelman said he was happy with the looks they got down the stretch but they just weren't falling.
4: Turnovers for the Wolves in the game -- a season-low.
38.5: Shooting percentage from the field for the Wolves.
0: Minutes for Anthony Tolliver in a second consecutive "Did not play -- coach's decision."
• Brad Miller made his Wolves debut with 3:53 remaining in the first half after missing the first 19 games because of microfracture knee surgery in mid-May.
The 13-year veteran played nine minutes and scored three points -- all at the free-throw line -- and looked rusty.
"I got some work to do obviously, but I am just trying to get some confidence back in my knee," Miller said. "It has been nine months, but it is more like a year-and-a-half (since I last played). I was glad to get out there and try to help us win."
The big thing for Miller was he didn't feel any pain in his surgically repaired knee.
"It didn't really bother me. My legs were shaking like I was a rookie out there," he said. "I just need to get my brain on the same page (as my legs)."
Although he was shaking, Miller said it wasn't because he was intimidated by the large of Andrew Bynum and Gasol -- he likes going against the big men.
"That is what I am hear for," he said. "I am definitely not scared of anybody in this league. Shaq's 350-pound butt is watching TV, so there is nobody out there that scares me."
• Point guard J.J. Barea sat out his sixth game in a row and nine of this past 10 games with the hamstring injury he originally suffered Dec. 27 at Milwaukee but keeps popping back up. Barea continues to workout but he and the training staff are taking it slow to guard against further setbacks.
Barea has played just six games this season since signing a 4-year contract during training camp.
• The Wolves expected to have Milicic back in the starting lineup after missing Friday's win over Dallas because he was sick. But the veteran warmed up on the court and came back reporting dizziness and fatigue and sat out. He didn't even make an appearance on the bench during the game. Pekovic got his second consecutive start instead.
"I told them all they had to do is look at our schedule. We aren't going to be playing a college team (to get to .500). We are going to be playing good teams."
-- Adelman. on the Wolves' quest to reach .500
"A lot of purple and gold out there tonight, which I don't particularly like seeing in the Target Center."
-- Love on the amount of Laker fans in the building.
The Wolves boarded a jet for Houston, where Kevin McHale and the Rockets (12-8) wait for a rematch of last week's 107-92 Wolves loss at Target Center. They'll have a more complete roster Monday night in the Lone Star State after having just nine healthy bodies a week ago.
They then return to the Twin Cities, where they will likely get a practice in Tuesday before welcoming the Indiana Pacers (12-6) to Target Center on Wednesday evening for their first meeting of the season.