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Kevin Love (left) got a good view of the Bulls and star Derrick Rose (1) on Wednesday night, including this first-quarter matchup. “They’re all on the same page,” Love said of Chicago, whom he expected to go far in the playoffs. “You can tell everybody has utmost respect for each [other] and they’re in it to win.”

Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

CHICAGO 108, WOLVES 91

Up next: 7 p.m. Friday vs. Miami • Target Center • TV: Ch. 29 (1130-AM)

Chicago's rise to top fills Wolves' Love with envy

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA
  • Star Tribune
  • March 31, 2011 - 12:53 AM

Kevin Love insisted his body felt fine after he returned from a three-game absence in time for Wednesday's 108-91 loss to Chicago, the Timberwolves' eighth consecutive defeat.

It was his spirit that seemed hurting.

"I felt fine, still a little tender, still a little restrictive," he said about a groin injury, "but that's no excuse for how we played tonight."

The way the Wolves played was in exact opposition to the performance  the Bulls delivered.

Missing the injured Joakim Noah but guided decisively by MVP favorite Derrick Rose, the Bulls moved the ball with such precision (31 assists, 41 baskets made) and defended with such aplomb that Love found himself envious of a team he foresees going "very, very far" in the playoffs.

He just might have been feeling that way because the Bulls, at least on this night, looked to be everything the Wolves aren't.

"They're pretty good," Love said. "I was saying that in the third quarter. They're pretty damn good. They're all on the same page. You can tell everybody has utmost respect for each [other] and they're in it to win. In that regard, I envy that, I salivate for that. I like that a lot.

"Until we all sacrifice for the better of the team, we won't be there."

Three nights after they trailed Boston by 25 and lost by three, the Wolves fell behind by 13 in the first and by as many as 24 in the third quarter before coach Kurt Rambis pulled the starters for the final, anticlimactic quarter.

Afterward, he again lamented his team's lack of "effort and intensity and focus" for most of the game.

"It wasn't there tonight," he said.

He was asked whether his players are counting the days and the games until this season, with 17 wins so far, mercifully ends.

For the record, seven games and 14 days remain.

"You can ask them that in the locker room," he said, "if you hurry up."

Does it look to him like they are?

He said he wasn't pleased with Wednesday's loss or a 33-point home loss to Sacramento 10 days earlier, but said his team did a "good job" in losses to Dallas, Oklahoma City and Boston.

"It's hard on the guys," he said. "I feel bad for the guys to have to suffer through a season like this. It's very hard on the players emotionally to have to go through a season like this. They don't see themselves as losers. It's very, very difficult. It's very emotionally draining to have to go through a season like this."

It was the sixth game in a seven-game stretch against the Lakers, the Mavericks, the Thunder, the Celtics, the Bulls and Miami.

"It's not the ideal situation to end up a season like ours playing the caliber of teams we're playing," Rambis said. "But I also think it's a good challenge for them. This is a good opportunity for our guys to see how tough and physical and nasty individuals and teams can be when they're really fighting for something."

The view Wednesday night wasn't pretty.

"It looks like it's a lot of fun playing like that," Wolves forward Anthony Tolliver said. "If we do play like that, we do have a lot of fun. We just don't do it on a regular basis. They've got a lot of veteran guys, good players who just have bought in completely and it's turned them into the one of the best teams in the league.

"They can win everything if they get things rolling at the right time. They're one of the few teams that I think have a chance to win it all."

Etc.

• Backup center Nikola Pekovic missed his second consecutive game because of a strained right hip, an injury sustained Friday at Oklahoma City. He said he definitely will play again this season, perhaps as soon as Miami makes its only visit of the season to Target Center on Friday.

• Noah warmed up before the game but determined he couldn't play because of a sprained ankle. Veteran forward Kurt Thomas started in his place.

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