MINNEAPOLIS -- A state of disarray has settled upon the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Wolves' season hit a new low Monday night, as a 107-89 loss to the Houston Rockets sent them stumbling to four games below .500 for the first this year.
It was more of the same from the Wolves. Minnesota rallied numerous times against the surging Rockets, who are now in the midst of a six-game win streak. But the Wolves, bogged down by shooting woes, could not hold on in the fourth quarter. By the end of the final frame, they had mustered just 11 points - their lowest scoring quarter of the season.
"We just couldn't make shots," said Terry Porter, who served as acting head coach with Rick Adelman absent due to personal reasons. "We had stretches where we had quality possessions ... But they ran out on our turnovers just like they ran out on our missed shots."
Injuries to Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin have depleted the lineup, but the problems that have derailed the Wolves in the last two weeks are not much different from the ones that have prevented any sort of consistency from forming all season long.
One game from the All-Star break, time is already fleeting for the Wolves and their ever-dwindling playoff hopes. With 30 games remaining, Minnesota can't be completely written off yet, but it would take a remarkable push in the second half to claim a coveted playoff spot in the daunting Western Conference.
Last season, the Lakers and the Rockets were the last two teams into the playoffs out of the West, both owners of 45 wins. The Wolves (24-28), who stand 6.5 games behind eighth-place Golden State, would have to go 21-9 the rest of the way in order to reach the same 45-win threshold.
"It's burning the candle on both ends basically with there being less and less games. We just can't continue to lose," said forward Kevin Love after scoring 31 points on an injured left knee.
Pekovic has been sidelined two weeks with a sore right ankle, and his return date remains up in the air. Martin, nursing a broken thumb in his non-shooting hand, isn't expected back until after the All-Star break.
The injuries, while they shouldn't be used as a scapegoat, have only made a troublesome situation worse. The Wolves have gone 2-6 since Pekovic was ruled out indefinitely on Jan. 28.
"This is a tough stretch for us ... Mentally, I think we're beat up a little bit, but we have to respond," Porter said. "Nobody is going to feel sorry for us, I can tell you that much."
The Wolves have a chance Wednesday, with the Nuggets in town, to soften their downward trend before the break. It's an opportunity the Wolves arguably can't afford to miss as the window for recovery on the their season narrows by the day.
"We've just got to keep pushing, regardless of whether we feel (the toll) or not," center Ronny Turiaf said. "When you have tough stretches like that, it reveals character. You either cave in or just try to keep your head above water."
Love plays on
• After sitting out Saturday against Portland, Love opted to play Monday, despite ongoing pain in his left knee.
While his stat line didn't show it -- 31 points, 10 rebounds, Love was far from 100 percent.
"It was tough today to get up and down the court," Love said. "In the half court I was fine, but just to (go up and down) was tough. But knock on wood, if I don't get it banged again it'll start to feel better. We'll just have to see how it goes."