November for Wolves includes plenty of games, travel

MINNEAPOLIS — Kevin Love spoke with intense

profundity back on the Timberwolves’ media day, outlining a cornerstone of his

team’s potential this season.

“We have to be the team that hits first,” the

superstar power forward said. “We can’t be hit first and then try to pick

ourselves back up.”

While they have an unenviable task every offseason, the

NBA’s schedule makers didn’t do Minnesota many favors in that regard.

For the first time in the franchise’s 25-year history, the

Timberwolves will have played 18 games by the end of November. Their 1-1 trip

to the City of Angels over Veterans Day weekend was the second of five

back-to-backs — three on the road, two home-and-aways — between the start of

the season and Dec. 1.

Only Dallas and San Antonio face that many

two-games-in-two-nights stints. Minnesota receive more than one day of rest

between contests just twice this month — they haven’t yet.

Rick Adelman detests it.

Especially perturbing, he said, are travel plans like the

ones coming up for the Timberwolves this weekend. After playing in Denver,

they’ll board a plane and return to Minneapolis for a home game against Boston.

Nov. 19, they’re on the road at Washington before hosting the Clippers the next

day at the Target Center.

Then they’ll fly to play at Brooklyn on Nov. 22 and return

home to host the Rockets on Nov. 23.

“I don’t think Denver and Minnesota are close or

Minnesota and Houston are close,” Adelman said with a smirk. “I never

understood why, when they do something like that, they don’t just give you a

team that’s a little more in your region.”

But for the same reason the Timberwolves will travel more

miles than any other team this year, their home state’s geographic isolation

among Western Conference clubs plays a part. The only teams in Minnesota’s

“region” all compete in the East; Denver (698 miles away) is the

closest Western Conference city.

They aren’t playing cupcakes, either. The jungle that is the

Timberwolves’ November slate includes two contests against Oklahoma City, the

Clippers, Denver and Dallas and road dates with Houston and Indiana.

It’s a frustrating state of affairs that aren’t going

anywhere anytime soon. More relevantly, it’s a hurdle the Timberwolves must

overcome if they’re to turn around the organization’s fortunes.

“That’s the way it is,” said Adelman, whose team

takes a 5-3 mark into Wednesday night’s home matchup with Cleveland. “We

knew it was gonna be a tough month.”

Historically, Minnesota carries

a .372 winning percentage in the month of November, which ranks 26th among

active NBA franchises since 1985-86.

So far this year, they’ve survived.

Kevin Love is off to the best start of his career, leading

the league in rebounding (108) and ranking second in points (26.4 per game)

while dishing out five assists per game. Kevin Martin’s 55.8-percent 3-point

clip is seventh among shooters with 20 or more attempts — he’s 24-for-43 —

and he’s the NBA’s No. 5 scorer at 24.6 points per game.

Ricky Rubio has struggled shooting but continues to excel as

a playmaker and point defender. He leads the league in steals (27) and ranks

second in assists (71) behind Chris Paul.

Big man Nikola Pekovic finally found a groove in the

Timberwolves’ nail-gnawing loss against the Clippers on Monday. The center shot

40.3 percent — about 12 off his career average — in Minnesota’s first seven

games but went 11-for-15 from the floor for 25 points and 10 rebounds.

While it ended with close-in shots by Pekovic and Love

falling off the rim, the Timberwolves’ 109-107 defeat may have provided the

best window into their identity early in the year. They twice rallied back from

11 down and nearly overcame a severe lack of bench production that has got to

improve if they’re going to make a postseason push.

The Clippers’ reserves outscored those of Minnesota 40-17,

and the Timberwolves’ 19.6 bench points per game are good for last in the NBA.

But Adelman liked his team’s grit, especially on the second

day of one of those dreaded road back-to-backs.

“That’s the way you have to play,” the coach said.

“It’s a back-to-back; they’re waiting for us. We have that all month, so

we have to continue to try and get better.”

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