Tuesday was one of those games that made you think about all that went into it -- the 1,000-mile journey, the hotel stay, the meals and bus rides and baggage -- and wonder whether anyone thinks it's a crazy use of time and resources and money. Because after all that effort, the Timberwolves didn't even put up a fight.
There are a lot of these types of games in the NBA, of course, but this one was a real downer because the Wolves had been providing genuine effort over the past couple of weeks, and there was a sense they had discovered what a difference that makes. Now they know for sure, because not giving that energy, particularly on defense, makes for lopsided results in a hurry. Elton Brand had back-to-back three-point plays in the first quarter, and Minnesota never cut the lead below seven points again. It was 47-27 less than four minutes into the second quarter, and while the Wolves rallied from a 20-point deficit to beat Philadelphia when they met in Target Center last month, this time there was never even a hint of willingness to climb back in it.
Kurt Rambis was fairly sanguine about the step backward, to the point where you wondered if he saw this coming. It may have had something to do with the upcoming All-Star break -- I don't doubt that many people's minds have temporarily wandered from this take-your-lumps season to a four-day vacation. If so, they had better hope the Bobcats feel the same way Wednesday, or they'll go into the break with a losing streak.
"Nobody wants that," said Ryan Hollins. "Nobody wants to have that bad feeling over the break."
A couple other notes from snow Philadelphia:
-- Hollins was a non-factor, somewhat surprising since the matchup against Samuel Dalembert figured to be fairly even if Hollins played with the intensity he showed during the winning streak. He tried, but he was way off, never coming close to blocking Dalembert's shot, or any of the many layups Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand collected.
-- Al Jefferson picked up three fouls in just 12 minutes in the first half, and sat down having made just two of seven shots. He was obviously trying to fire up his teammates in the second half, but the Wolves couldn't make a dent in Philadelphia's lead, which never got below 17 points after halftime. Jefferson was frustrated by all the mistakes. "We turned the ball over way too much," he said. "We never gave ourselves a chance with all the turnovers." Minnesota had 19 (for 31 Sixer points), including five by Jonny Flynn and four by Damien Wilkins.
-- Speaking of Wilkins, the transition to bench player has hit a bump. Wilkins went scoreless for the second straight game, and he has only 23 total points in the five games since being removed from the starting lineup in an effort to bolster the second unit.
-- With Jefferson in foul trouble, Oleksiy Pecherov played more than 15 minutes, his longest stint since Dec. 14. True to form, he tried (and made) a three-pointer less than four minutes after checking in, and he had six points by halftime. But something weird happened in the second half: Despite playing nearly seven minutes, Pecherov never took another shot.
-- Minnesota is now 1-28 when failing to score 100 points.
-- Allen Iverson missed his fourth straight game to attend to a personal situation within his family. No word on whether the Sixers guard will make it to Dallas this weekend to start for the Eastern Conference All-Stars. But is it a coincidence that the Sixers haven't lost since Iverson's been gone?
-- As I noted in the game story, a Minnesota win would have dropped Golden State into last place in the Western Conference by percentage points -- nicely symbolizing their resurgence. As non-competitive as Tuesday was, Rambis was right -- they are miles above where they stood in November, when nobody could figure out the triangle offense. Anyway, I wouldn't bet against the Timberwolves eventually passing the Warriors, who have lost nine straight games.
-- People notice quite often how empty Target Center is during NBA games, but I haven't seen an arena as empty as Wachovia Center in years. The announced attendance was 11,038, but I'd wager that at least a third of those tickets went unused. In addition to the matchup of sub-.500 also-rans, the crowd was kept away by forecasts of a blizzard that began just before tipoff.
-- About that weather: The Wolves completed the game in just two hours, eight minutes, then packed up in a flash and rushed to the airport before it got too socked in to allow them to leave. Not everyone was so lucky -- the email informing me that my Wednesday morning flight to Minneapolis had already been cancelled arrived an hour before gametime, stranding me here an extra day (at least). I'll say this: Even by Minnesota standards, this is a serious snowstorm. The sun was out when I arrived at the arena; by the time I left for what turned out to be a two-hour drive to my nearby hotel, there were already six inches of snow smothering my rental car.
-- PHIL MILLER