Tuesday morning came the mea culpa from the NBA. The referees made a mistake at the end of Monday’s Wolves-Mavericks game, the league announced. Shawn Marion did, indeed, foul Kevin Love, and Love should have had the opportunity to tie the score with two free throws with 1 second left in a 100-98 loss.
The Wolves reaction? A collective shrug of the shoulders.
“It doesn’t matter,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said dismissively. “It’s over with. It doesn’t do any good to think about it now.”
He’s right. The announcement won’t change the game, nor make the loss any less painful.
“Coach told me they said they messed it up,” Love said. “I said, ‘Well, how does that help?’ We both just shook our heads. But life goes on. We had a good day at practice today. We’ve got another team [New Orleans] coming in [Wednesday] in the same position we’re in. We just need to get over the hump.’
The Wolves’ theme Tuesday was to worry only about what the they could control. And that is a considerable list: defense, both in transition and in the paint; avoiding lapses, particularly at the beginning of games, and figuring out a way to close games out.
The Wolves struggled mightily in all of those areas in the loss to Dallas, the team directly ahead of them in the Western Conference standings. A lackluster first half had them trailing by 19 points at intermission. After trailing by as much as 21 early in the third quarter, the Wolves took a three-point lead in the fourth quarter but couldn’t hold it.
Adelman’s sometimes gruff style was evident after Tuesday’s practice. Love had mentioned the team should come up with an incentive system to reward hard fouls or contested shots.
“Don’t they get paid?” Adelman said when informed of Love’s suggestion. “I think they get paid enough that you don’t need to do incentives. … We have to regroup and come out a lot better than we did last night.
“The guys have to do more. They’ve got to take on the challenge of doing a better job defensively. And it’s everybody on the team. We just keep working at it. That’s what we’re going to do, keep talking about it.”
It was a rather frustrating month for the Wolves, who had five chances to push above .500 during the month but failed each time. The Wolves went 6-7 in December with some nice wins — particularly a victory over Portland. But there were also some hard-to-explain losses, including games at Boston, at the Los Angeles Lakers and at home Monday.
But it has been a season-long phenomenon. The Wolves are 0-8 in games decided by four or fewer points.
Love said Monday’s first-half problems were mainly because of lack of effort.
“I think if we can bring consistent effort every single night we’ll be OK,” he said. “Coach hits it on the head when he says we haven’t done anything yet. We have to be one of the scrappiest, if not the scrappiest team, in the league.”
But this is something the coaches and players have been talking about for a while.
“We’ve had enough times where we’ve won a couple of games and then we’ve stepped back the next game,” Adelman said. “Sooner or later we have to break through. That’s the bottom line. We’ve got to have a mentally tough mind-set.”