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Wolves forward Kevin Love, right, looked to pass against Charlotte center Cody Zeller during the first half Friday in Charlotte, N.C.

NELL REDMOND, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson, left, tries to pass around Minnesota Timberwolves forward Dante Cunningham during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, March 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

NELL REDMOND, DML - ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

Love goes cold, Wolves crumble in loss to Charlotte

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA
  • Star Tribune
  • March 15, 2014 - 6:50 AM

– Friday’s 105-93 loss that essentially eliminated the Timberwolves from playoff contention everywhere but mathematically provided one thing you just don’t see very often and something else you’ll never see again.

Wolves three-time All-Star Kevin Love didn’t score a point in the second half.

And no matter how disheartening Friday’s loss, you can bet this: The Wolves never will lose again to the Charlotte Bobcats, who won for the fifth time in six games and for the eighth consecutive time at home.

Love missed all seven shots he attempted in the second half after he went 7-for-10 and scored 18 in the first half. But he was shut out in the second half, at least partly because of Nikola Pekovic leaving early in the third quarter because of that troublesome right ankle that caused him to miss February because of bursitis.

He did not return to play against a Bobcats team that will reclaim for Charlotte the nickname Hornets when these teams next play again next season.

By that third quarter, the Wolves already trailed by double digits after experiencing another second-quarter swoon when coach Rick Adelman attempted to rest his starters. The Wolves never pulled closer than 10 points again after they allowed Charlotte a 17-8 run during the quarter’s first five minutes while Adelman played a unit composed exclusively of reserve players.

It’s the same issue that has troubled the Wolves much of the season and one that Love in a way attributed to his scoreless second half, the first time he hasn’t scored in a half since he played less than eight minutes in a second half when he refractured his shooting hand on Jan. 3, 2013, in Denver.

“I don’t know how these guys felt, but I was particularly tired,” Love said. “We couldn’t hit shots in the second half, myself included. I don’t think I scored. It was a tough night for everybody.”

At Friday’s morning shoot-around, Love spoke about the physical effects from playing more than 40 and 42 minutes in the team’s past two games.

“I was just trying to speak it out of existence,” Love said, “and it caught up to me tonight.”

Love and Adelman both noted the team’s lack of defense as Charlotte scored 65 points in the first half. The score was tied 33-33 after the first quarter, and the Wolves trailed 50-41 when Adelman brought back Love and Pekovic for reserves Dante Cunningham and Luc Mbah a Moute with 6:51 left before halftime.

“We really didn’t defend them very well in the first half,” Adelman said, “and the start of the second quarter just killed us.”

Pekovic left the game for good after little more than two minutes had expired in the third quarter, telling Adelman and the team’s training staff that his right ankle was too sore to continue. He played with pain in that ankle the past seven games.

“I can play under a certain amount of pain, but at one point it just felt like I can’t move, I can’t do anything,” Pekovic said.

Without Pekovic clearing space near the basket, the Bobcats alternately used starter Josh McRoberts and reserve rookie Cody Zeller to wear down and wear out Love while Adelman asked rookie Gorgui Dieng to defend former Wolves star Al Jefferson, who delivered a 25-point, 16-rebound game.

“We let him score a lot in the first half, didn’t we?” McRoberts said about Love. “He’s so good that the defense is just about getting him away from the spots he wants most. The thing about guys like that is the next game he’ll make all seven of those shots.”

The loss left the Wolves 5½ games behind Memphis for the West’s final playoff spot with 18 games left.

“They’ve got to play,” Adelman said. “The season’s still there, playoffs or no playoffs. You’ve got to play. You’ve got to finish the year out and you’ve got to compete. Next game, we’ve got to come out and try to win.”

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