Wolves Look To Regroup After Tough Loss In Phoenix

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Looking back on Wednesday’s 84-83 overtime loss to the Phoenix Suns, Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman knows exactly where to pinpoint where Minnesota lost control. During the second quarter of a game in which each team scored more than 20 points in a quarter just once, the Wolves allowed Phoenix to put up 31 points before the half and open up a 14-point lead just before the break.

From there, the Wolves did what they’ve done all season. They’ve battled to within striking distance, even taking the lead late in the fourth, but Minnesota was unable to finish the comeback in the first of a three-game West Coast road trip.

“We didn’t play in the second quarter, and they opened up the lead,” Adelman said. “We’ve got to play the whole 48 minutes. We can’t have let downs. We have to come out and play the way we’re capable of. We didn’t do that in the first half and it cost us.”

The Wolves also suffered another injury blow in the first half as Andrei Kirilenko left the game with a left calf strain. He did not return, and his status is to be determined as the Wolves have an off day Wednesday before Thursday’s tilt with the Lakers.

Minnesota trailed by as many as 18 points in the third quarter but found a way—even on a challenging evening on the offensive end—to make a comeback. They held the Suns to 30 points in the third and fourth quarters combined, including just 11 points in the third, while J.J. Barea and Nikola Pekovic each had strong second halves to lead the way.

Pek scored 12 of his 18 points in the third and fourth, connecting on 5-of-6 from the floor. He’s such an important piece in what the Wolves are trying to do on the offensive end right now, particularly with Kevin Love still out due to injury, but with the team as a whole shooting 29.5 percent from the field in the first half, Pekovic didn’t have a lot of room to work before the half. He was just 1-for-4 with six points leading into the break. In overtime, Pekovic had just one shot attempt.

Barea was another important facet of the comeback. He scored 12 of his 16 points in the fourth alone, shooting 5-of-9 from the field and hitting a pair of 3-pointers during the frame. He accounted for 12 of the team’s 26 points in the fourth—a quarter in which the starters combined for nine points, eight from Pekovic—and was a big part in the Wolves coming all the way back to take a two-point lead with 25 seconds to play.

Dante Cunningham and Ricky Rubio each hit free throws to give Minnesota that two-point edge late in the fourth, but a crisp pick-and-roll from Goran Dragic to Marcin Gortat for the lay-in tied the game with 13.6 to play. Minnesota missed their last-second opportunity, sending the game to overtime where the Suns opened up a four-point lead and never looked back.

“We gave ourselves a chance, and we didn’t have good luck there at the end,” Barea said. “We’ve just got to play a more consistent 48 minutes. We were trying to play with a lot of energy. I got to the basket, I got into a rhythm as we got going and I kept being aggressive. And I think it helped out a little bit. We just couldn’t close it out there at the end.”

Minnesota trailed by four in overtime before Derrick Williams hit a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game. And after Wes Johnson missed a jumper with 18.1 to play, the Wolves regrouped and had an opportunity to take the lead. Alexey Shved found some daylight and drove to the basket, but his lay-up narrowly rimmed out and into the hands of Marcus Morris. Morris was fouled, missed both free throws but with 0.5 seconds left on the clock there was too little time for Minnesota to get one last attempt.

The Wolves have an off day to regroup before two more road games against the Lakers and Blazers in two difficult road venues. Minnesota now falls to 20-34 on the year.

“You’ve got to make plays in this league, and we’re going to have to learn how to make plays,” Adelman said. “It’s as simple as that.”

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