A day later, after the latest “worst loss of the season,” Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman was still annoyed.
The Wolves dropped a 111-108 decision Wednesday to Sacramento at Target Center, a game in which the home team looked strangely disengaged for much of the first 3½ quarters. Adelman was upset with his team’s lack of a defensive edge, especially in the paint. And he was still frustrated by a lack of urgency from the beginning.
Which might have explained his decision to bench his starting backcourt of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin late in a hard-to-take loss to a 13-win team. Adelman went with Alexey Shved and J.J. Barea, who combined to score 16 points with four assists in the fourth quarter as the Wolves attempted a comeback.
“I was trying to find a group that was going to compete and play,” Adelman said. “And something positive was happening, at least. The energy was better.”
Both Rubio and Martin have struggled of late. Rubio’s shot isn’t falling, and he has had difficulty finishing at the rim. Wednesday he had as many turnovers (five) as points. After the game, he talked about trying to “find himself.”
“It’s something I have been missing,” Rubio said. “I just need to keep working, go out and have fun and win some games.”
Adelman said Rubio’s problem isn’t effort, but execution. “He plays very hard,” Adelman said. “He’s got to figure out that basketball is really a game of mistakes. You’ve got to find a way not to make ’em over and over again. He gets really down on himself too much. He’s just got to play, make the easy play. It doesn’t have to be a great play. When something doesn’t happen for him, he tries too hard and that compounds it.”
With Martin, Adelman said the veteran shooting guard has been too tentative.
“He has to be more aggressive,” Adelman said. “I don’t know what it is. We run a lot of different things for him, but sometimes he’s just not really forcing the issue. I think he has to do that. We need him to score.”
Martin averaged 23.1 points per game in his first 17 games. In his past 19, his average is 15.6. Martin dealt with a minor knee problem earlier in the season, but Adelman said that is no longer an issue. What is at issue is a coach deciding to bench his starting backcourt in the fourth quarter of a tight game. It’s clear Adelman is trying to light a fire under his team.
“When things are not going the right way, the only thing I [blame] is myself,” Rubio said. “Sometimes I’m too hard [on myself]. I want to be perfect. I know it’s hard, but it’s the way I am.”
Adelman isn’t harping only on Rubio and Martin. The coach has issues with just about all the Wolves.
“We have to face facts that we’re a .500 team,” he said. “Right now we’re below .500 [18-20]. I told them, ‘If you think you’re a playoff team, why don’t you just forget it? Because you haven’t proven that you are. You haven’t gone out and really established yourselves yet.’ ”
The Wolves head to Toronto to play the Raptors on Friday night having lost two consecutive games and three of the past four. They are in danger of falling three games below .500 for the first time this season.
“The effort has got to be there,” Adelman said.
Adelman said he wants his whole team to break out of its comfort zone, get more aggressive, maybe get a little nastier.
“We need to develop some sort of edge,” forward Kevin Love said. “We talk a lot of trash, we are edgy, in practice. We just need to transition that into the game. We have it in us, we just need to go out and do it.”