Wolves vs. Pelicans: Wolves let another slip away, lose 98-91

Feb 7, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love (42) drives toward the basket in front of New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis (behind) in the first half at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Yet another can’t-lose game. And yet another loss by your Minnesota Timberwolves.

It’s reached critical mass for coach Rick Adelman’s bunch, and the season is just about over. The unthinkable — yet another playoff-less season — is well on it’s way to happening.

A squad without it’s starting center can only do so much. But this was a game that should have been won. The Wolves led by as much as 11 points in the third quarter, and a combination of poor play by the bench and defensive breakdowns doomed the visitors.

Kevin Love was obviously not himself while still dealing with the effects of his nasty spill on Tuesday night in Minneapolis. Add some early foul trouble and a Greg Stiemsma knee to his thigh in the third quarter, and Love had a whole mess of adversity to work through. His outside shot was off all night long (0-6 from deep), but he was able to get a host of calls and reach the free throw line 17 times, making 14.

The defensive breakdowns that lead to the Wolves suddenly dropping this game in stunning fashion have been constant all year long. Oh, and it’s time that we put the rim protection rant to bed. No Pekovic means more Turiaf and Dieng, who both block shots at a much higher rate and are useful players in their own right.

But you know what they don’t do? They don’t guard opposing wings. Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer are tasked with that, and they are downright terrible. Add in the even-worse Barea and the never-good-at-defense-but-worse-with-no-knees Budinger, and you’ve got five players at the 1/2/3 spots that are easily minus defenders.

Mbah a Moute is great, but he too often plays only with second unit players. Which means that he is exposed on offense, as Budinger hasn’t gotten straightened out as of yet and the Barea-Cunningham pick-and-pop only works so many times. Of course, there’s always the Barea kamikaze drive to the hoop. We all love those, don’t we?

Novel idea: why not pair a plus-plus defender in Mbah a Moute with a scorer/minus defender like Martin? It would do wonders. The idea that Brewer is a good defender is so baffling, so astounding….use the eye test if you want. Brewer is a gambling matador. That’s it.

That’s why the Wolves lost. Sure, they clam up in tight games, yadda, yadda, yadda. But they also let Brian Roberts and Eric Gordon walk all over them late in the game. And guess what? Mbah a Moute shut down Tyreke Evans in ten minutes of play. Evans finished the game 3 of 10, and was pretty terrible.

But down the stretch, the Wolves’ communication broke down (By the way, Turiaf was on the bench for the fourth quarter, and he is a fantastic talker on the defensive end. Coincidence? Maybe, but I think not.) and the lack of containment by Brewer and Martin did them in. Rubio was everywhere, and was very, very good on the defensive end. He struggled some again offensively, but that hurt the team much less than Martin and Brewer’s collectively sorry excuse for defense.

Yet another yeoman’s effort by Love wasted, and another shovelful of dirt heaped onto the barely-breathing, mostly lifeless excuse for a body that is the 2013-14 Timberwolves. It’s about over. The playoff odds are falling quickly, and help is not on the way. Pekovic returning will help, but we’re looking at something along the lines of a 2007-08 Houston Rockets (also coached by Adelman) win-streak that will be needed to squeak into the playoffs.

Nobody on the Wolves played particularly well tonight. Love finished with 26 points and 19 rebounds while also chipping in 3 assists and 1 steal with only 2 turnovers. As mentioned, Rubio played very good defense, but shot just 3 of 10 from the floor, finishing the game with 11 points and 6 assists. Martin was absolutely brutal, shooting 3 of 11 from the field with three turnovers. He killed the Wolves down the stretch.

So it’s about over. They’ll play a tired Portland Trail Blazers team at Target Center tomorrow night, as the Blazers lost in overtime in Indianapolis tonight. It would be a fun game to win, but I’m not holding my breath. And assuming they can’t pull it out, we’re looking at a 24-27 record. Yikes.

Topics: Anthony Davis, Corey Brewer, Eric Gordon, Kevin Love, Kevin Martin, Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA, New Orleans Pelicans, Nikola Pekovic, Ricky Rubio

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