ORLANDO - They knew games would come furiously during this jury-rigged NBA season, when the Timberwolves play 66 games in 123 days.
"But maybe not so fast, not like this," Wolves center Nikola Pekovic said after Monday's 102-89 loss at Orlando.
Just a week ago, they had won six of eight games and briefly surpassed a .500 record while Wolves fans daydreamed about a roster move or two that might set their team up for a possible playoff run.
Now, the Wolves have lost three games in four nights and four in a row, their longest losing streak of the season.
A season ago, they would have considered a four-game losing streak just getting started -- they lost that many, and often much more, seven times in 82 games -- but this time, rookie Ricky Rubio searched for just the right words in English, his second language, and came up with these:
"This is our tough moment of the season," Rubio said. "We have to step up and be the team we want to be."
It might help that league-worst Charlotte is next on the schedule, at home on Wednesday, but there's little rhyme and reason in this season when the Wolves are 6-6 on the road and 7-10 at home.
Rubio has played professionally since he was 14, and seven years later he was asked if he had ever lost four consecutive games before.
"Uh, I don't know," he said. "I think not."
On Monday, coach Rick Adelman tinkered with the starting lineup out of necessity, plugging legitimately sized Martell Webster in at shooting guard while Luke Ridnour remained home in Minnesota to be with his year-old son and family.
With one of their three preferred point guards out, the other two -- Rubio and J.J. Barea -- combined to commit 12 turnovers. The Wolves turned it over in all a total of 18 times, and they considered that total an improvement over the season-high 28 they made Friday against Dallas and the 23 they had Saturday against New York.
They had Magic superstar Dwight Howard right where they wanted him -- in early foul trouble that limited him to fewer than 28 minutes as well as only 11 points and seven rebounds -- and still the Wolves trailed by as many as 20 points early in the third quarter.
They made their obligatory run, scoring 10 of 12 points to get within eight midway through the fourth quarter, before J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson combined for back-to-back three-pointers -- two of 12 Orlando made -- that slammed the gate shut with 4 minutes, 13 seconds to play.
Four consecutive losses certainly is no reason to panic, but ...
"We keep talking to them about not giving in," Adelman said. "You can't give in. You can't let something keep going. If you don't stay together and don't trust each other, you can get on those rolls that go the other way. We don't want that to happen."
Pekovic said he's confident it won't.
"Last year, we were losing like 20 games in a row," said Pekovic, who started at center and had another double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds. "Now we lost four games in a row. We are better team. Everybody can see that. We have way better result than last year already, but sometimes you get this upside down.
"We're playing good, then we play bad. We have to learn to be consistent, you know? At the same level every game. We are young team. We just need some time."