Jerry Zgoda missed the entire Kevin Garnett era, but he's back covering the Timberwolves after working the beat for their first four seasons two decades ago. In between, he covered a bit of everything: Gopher men's and women's basketball and NCAA athletics, golf, outdoor recreation, sports media and a little Vikings and Twins.

Defense dries up, so do Wolves

Posted by: under Wolves postgame Updated: March 23, 2010 - 2:44 AM

  Tuesday is the one-month anniversary of the Wolves' last victory. No word on how they'll celebrate.

It didn't take long to figure out how things were going to go for the Wolves on Monday night. In the first quarter alone, Kevin Love missed two point-blank layups. After the second one, he ran down the court staring at his hands and shaking his head, as if no longer certain how to operate them.

He was far from the only one, however. Jonny Flynn missed a layup, too, and Corey Brewer dropped an alley-oop pass on a fast break. The Wolves missed at least five shots from inside three feet, giving away points that would have made a big difference in such a winnable game.

That's probably the sign of a team that, in the throes of another endless losing streak -- believe it or not, this is the second time this season that a month has passed between Minnesota wins -- is having some problems concentrating on the task at hand. It's something of a recurring problem, too. When I mentioned to coach Kurt Rambis after the game that I couldn't remember a game with so many missed layups, Rambis wryly shot back, "so you didn't see the Utah game?"

The Wolves are still saying all the right things about working hard, playing to the end, not mailing it in. And their schedule has been so difficult, I'm not sure that a last-drop-of-energy sort of effort would change the outcome. But the defense in the final three minutes of a two-point game was really striking.

The small crowd was actually making some noise when the Wolves pulled within a basket and Toronto called time out, and the momentum appeared to be building for a streak-breaking rally. After all, Toronto was the third or fourth straight Target Center opponent to appear ready to nod off in boredom much of the night. But when the game resumed, the Raptors ran a high screen-and-roll that appeared to dumbfound Minnesota's defense.

Fight through the pick? Run underneath it? Rotate over to help cover the ball-handler? Make any sort of adjustment of any kind? All seemed quite beyond the Wolves' capacity, and Hedu Turkoglu, Andrea Bargnani, Jarrett Jack and Antoine Wright all suddenly, effortlessly, found themselves with the ball and no defender nearby. The Wolves' offense was executing well enough, but Toronto simply scored at will, making resistance futile.

Anyway, a few other details from loss No. 57, just one fewer than last year:

-- Ryan Hollins played only three minutes, after getting just one minute Friday in Los Angeles. He had been warned that this might happen, though. After Monday morning's shootaround, Rambis pulled Hollins aside and explained that he just feels Al Jefferson, Kevin Love and Darko Milicic are playing better at the moment. It's quite a turnaround for Hollins, who averaged 20 minutes a game in February.

-- Corey Brewer made a pair of three-pointers, perhaps starting a new streak of three-point shooting. Brewer was 0-for-3 from beyond the arc in Los Angeles, snapping his franchise-record string of 33 straight games with a three-pointer. Brewer said he never thought about the streak while he was playing, but he noticed that defenses are paying much more attention to him away from the basket now.

-- Sasha Pavlovic suited up after missing three games with a sore calf, but he didn't get into the game.

-- The UCLA band, in town for Tuesday's women's NCAA tournament game against Nebraska, was at Target Center for the game. Couldn't miss them, because they made plenty of noise in an otherwise quiet game. The band chanted for Kevin Love and Ryan Hollins, both Bruins alumni.

-- The loss was Minnesota's 12th straight against Toronto. Is it just me, or does it seem like the Wolves have double-digit streaks going against about half the teams in the league?

-- The guys on the Fox broadcast had a lot of fun with analyst Mike McCollow, who accidentally knocked over a table of computers and equipment before the game. Fox's cameras caught the accident on tape, and played it for him during the broadcast. Speaking of Fox, the pregame show was basically cancelled in favor of interviews from Joe Mauer's press conference in Florida. Wonder if anyone complained.

-- After that one-game visit home, the Wolves head out of town again today for a trip to Charlotte and Orlando. When they return this weekend, the Wolves will have only three road games left.

 

-- PHIL MILLER

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