New uniform, old problems.
The Timberwolves unveiled their new alternative uniforms Wednesday night at Target Center. But the team, clad in black shirtsleeves, still had problems dealing with speed on the perimeter and defending the basket inside.
The result: A 117-110 loss to a Denver team that, at times, scored with absurd ease.
It was enough to send Wolves coach Rick Adelman close to the edge.
“Really disappointed with our effort,” he said after the Wolves (8-9) fell blow .500 for the first time this season. “We allowed them to do whatever they wanted to do. We have to figure out what we’re going to do from this point forward. You can’t defend like that. You can’t have that kind of energy level coming into a home game like that. … It was uncalled for.”
Frankly, Adelman sounded offended by the lack of effort by his team. So what was he most upset about?
Take your pick. The Wolves allowed a season-high 64 first-half points. The 117 points allowed matched a season high, equaling the points Denver scored on the Wolves on Nov. 15. The Nuggets, who won their fourth in a row, scored 25 points off Wolves turnovers, scored 60 points in the paint and 20 on the break. They shot 51.1 percent from the field, 8-for-16 on three-pointers.
Denver’s guard trio of Ty Lawson, Randy Foye and reserve Nate Robinson had too much quickness outside. The combined for 48 points, 10 assists and three steals. Lawson had 23 points to lead eight Nuggets in double figures.
Kevin Martin scored a game-high 29 points, 10 in the fourth quarter when the Wolves, briefly, made it a one-point game. Nikola Pekovic had 21 and Kevin Love added 19. Rick Rubio had 17 points and 11 assists, but he also had seven turnovers.
But what might have bothered Adelman most was a lack of energy, both to start the game and by the reserves off the bench. And he let them know about it after it was over.
Love called it a lousy effort, plain and simple, though the word he used to describe the lack of effort was a bit harsher. “You can say we played that bad, but we still gave ourselves a chance at the end. Shoot. … We messed up that game in the first quarter with the way we played.”
The Wolves lost their third game in a row and for the fifth time in six games. And they have an upcoming schedule that allows little relief.
Maybe that’s why Adelman was sounding the alarm after the loss. The coaches, he said, have talked enough. It was time for the team to lean on its leaders. “They have to police themselves, hold each other responsible,” Adelman said. “It has to come from within.”
After allowing the Nuggets to score 64 points on 63.4 percent shooting in the first half, the Wolves did improve. They got more physical and defended better, but they couldn’t get over the hump.
Down 103-92, they had a final push left. Love’s three-pointer with 5:15 left got it going. After Robinson missed, Love hit Martin on the break. Martin scored again off a Corey Brewer steal and it was 103-99. Coming out of a timeout, Love hit a three-pointer with 3:57 left to make it 103-102.
But that’s as far as it went. J.J. Hickson dunked, Love missed a three and Kenneth Faried dunked on the break. After Pekovic missed, Hickson was left all alone under the basket for yet another dunk. It was 111-104 and the rally was over.
“We need to get an identity,” Brewer said. “We don’t have an identity yet.”
Time to get one.
“We have to figure it out,” Adelman said. “It gets tougher now, and we’ll see what we’re made of.”