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Updated: December 12th, 2013 3:56pm
Zulgad: Rick Adelman capitalized on teachable moment, Wolves responded

Zulgad: Rick Adelman capitalized on teachable moment, Wolves responded

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by Judd Zulgad

MINNEAPOLIS -- There is no guarantee Rick Adelman will be able to get the Minnesota Timberwolves into the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-04 season, but even if that doesn't happen, the veteran coach is going to teach some lessons about expectations.

Adelman proved this again Wednesday night in the Wolves' 106-99 come-from-behind win over Philadelphia. The 76ers grabbed a 19-point lead in the opening quarter, putting Adelman in a perfect position to attempt to stop the bleeding as the Wolves' played the second of back-to-back games.

Instead, the 67-year-old assumed the role of a coach handling a group of grade school kids. As the 76ers went on their big first-half run, Adelman showed no interest in calling a timeout and decided to let his players figure out how to get out of the mess they had created.

"Sometimes, something is going on out there and I tell the coaches, 'Let them learn what's going on,'" Adelman said. "We can't keep talking to them about everything. They've got to adjust out on the court."

A night earlier the Wolves had cruised to a 121-94 victory over the host Detroit Pistons. The Pistons (10-13) and 76ers (7-16) are both part of a largely pathetic Eastern Conference, but this time the Wolves trailed by 13 at halftime at Target Center.

 "It was pretty obvious that you shouldn't have to say anything," Adelman said. "I told them you shouldn't have to say much after the way we started the game. You have to learn a lesson that when you get a nice win last night, it means nothing tonight. You'd better understand that."

It was hard not to appreciate Adelman's approach.

He didn't have any interest in stopping the 76ers run with a timeout because he knows that if the Wolves are going to turn around their fortunes the players, especially the veterans, must take charge.

At some point, the coach can't bail you out.

That means guys like Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio have to do more than perform on the court. They also have to emerge as leaders.

Whether he knows it, Adelman is doing Flip Saunders, the Wolves' new president of basketball operations and quite possibly the next coach, a huge favor.

Adelman knows full well that he isn't going to be in Minnesota for the long term, meaning there could be a temptation to over-coach at times in the name of trying to get victories whenever possible. That would mean teachable moments also might be ignored.

By not using a timeout during a difficult stretch Wednesday, Adelman essentially demanded his players take control.

The Wolves outscored Philadelphia 58-38 in the second half, including 28-18 in the fourth quarter.  Minnesota did not take its first lead until that quarter.

Adelman even trusted his bench enough to get contributions from Dante Cunningham, J.J. Barea, Luc Mbah a Moute and Robbie Hummel, who hit two of three three-pointers and finished with 10 points.

The back-to-back victories on consecutive nights - the first time the Wolves have accomplished that feat in a year - came after a difficult stretch in which Adelman's team went 1-5 against Houston, Indiana, Denver, Dallas, Oklahoma City and Miami.

All of those teams are over .500 and ahead of the Wolves in the standings. The win on Wednesday pulled the Wolves to 11-11, leaving them on the outside looking in for the current playoff picture in the West.

Will they make enough strides between now and the spring to get themselves among the top eight in the conference? That might not happen, but seeing Adelman attempt to force accountability on his players still could make this an entertaining winter.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd