Timberwolves don’t have enough to give after heartbreaking loss
From the start Monday night in Memphis, the Timberwolves looked like a team that knows it’s reached the end of the line.
The Grizzlies defeated Minnesota by a 109-92 score, furthering their playoff hopes while shoving their adversary further into the lottery sludge.
But the Timberwolves appeared defeated long before the final buzzer sounded at FedEx Forum.
"We got off to such a bad start," coach Rick Adelman said.
Minnesota (34-35) picked up exactly where it left off in blowing a 22-point lead Sunday against Phoenix — a game that virtually assured it’ll miss the playoffs for a 10th straight season. A day later, the Timberwolves scored a season-low-tying 15 first-quarter points, missed eight of their first nine field-goal attempts and were assessed two frustration-based technical fouls before some of the tilt’s 17,784 spectators could find their seats.
First-quarter calls on Kevin Martin for arguing with the officials and Kevin Love for chucking the ball off the backboard following a whistle are the kind often seen in the final frame of a trying contest.
But this has been a trying season, and the frustration is starting to boil over.
Now seven games back of the Western Conference’s final playoff spot, Minnesota’s getting closer and closer to mathematical elimination. The latest step on that trajectory was especially ugly — 37.8 percent shooting, a game-long deficit that swelled to 25 at one point, a combined 11-for-31 shooting performance from top active scorers Love and Martin, and a 52.7-percent field-goal evening for Memphis (42-28).
It was the third straight game a Timberwolves opponent made more than half its shots. In the past eight outings, Minnesota — which has the league’s worst defensive field-goal percentage — hasn’t held a foe to less than 48.2 percent from the floor.
With Timberwolves centers Nikola Pekovic and Ronny Turiaf both out, the frontcourt-anchored Grizzlies outscored them 66-42 in the paint and outrebounded them 54-42.
"They just hammered it in inside on us in the first half," Adelman said. "They just kind of dominated us around the basket."
Zach Randolph (17 points, four rebounds) and Marc Gasol’s (14, 12) work in the post opened up the rest of the floor for point guard Mike Conley, who went 9-for-12 from the floor and scored a game-high 23 points.
Love led Minnesota with 16 and seven in his lowest-scoring night since Jan. 25 at Portland.
After trailing by 20-plus on both occasions, the Timberwolves rallied to cut their deficit to 45-35 late in the second quarter and began the second half with a 10-2 to run to make 59-49. Another 9-0 jaunt to close the third had them within 13, but the Grizzlies opened the fourth on a 10-0 run.
Mike Miller and Conley hit back-to-back 3s to make it 91-68 with 8 minutes, 27 seconds to go.
Rookie center Gorgui Dieng put forth Minnesota’s most efficient effort, hitting 5 of 10 shots en route to 11 points and pulling down a game-best 17 rebounds. The Louisville product tallied his fourth double-double in five starts since filling in for Pekovic during his latest bout with right-ankle bursitis.
No. 2 point guard J.J. Barea also sat out, with a sprained left foot. With A.J. Price sidelined, too, while he recovers from an emergency appendectomy, Alexey Shved spelled starting one-guard Ricky Rubio.
The two combined to go 2-for-15 from the floor with 11 points and nine assists — five by Shved.
Adelman wasn’t unhappy with the effort, he said. Just his team’s inability to keep up.
"I thought they played hard enough," the coach said. "We just didn’t compete."
Love attributed it to the emotional hangover from an excruciating loss the day before.
"Yesterday’s game took a lot out of us in every aspect," Love said. "I also think that (Adelman is), for the most part, right. It’s draining, to say the least."
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