It was shortly after the second half began Wednesday at Target Center that the Timberwolves began losing the battle of attrition. Of course, it didn’t help that they lost their shooting touch, too.

But here are the facts: Already without injured starters Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin and reserves Chase Budinger and Shabazz Muhammad, the Wolves played Chicago with backup guard J.J. Barea also in a suit because of back spasms. There was a wall out there waiting for the remaining healthy (enough) players to hit, and it happened in the third quarter of a 102-87 Bulls victory.

After playing a bit over their collective heads, hitting better than 50 percent of their shots against one of the NBA’s best defensive teams and taking a five-point halftime lead, the Wolves were steamrolled in the second half by the playoff-bound Bulls (46-32), who won their sixth game in a row.

“We played a good first half,” said Ricky Rubio, who had 15 points and six assists. “In the second half, we didn’t have the energy enough. They’re a good team. They play great basketball. Maybe we were tired at the end. Shorthanded. I mean, we’re trying to bring it every night. But it’s hard.”

The Wolves certainly found it hard to score in the second half, when they were outscored by 20 points and shot just 14-for-42 from the floor (33.3 percent).

The Bulls, meanwhile, hit nearly 53 percent of their second-half shots. Overall, Chicago shot 50 percent, hit on 11 of 21 three-pointers and got double-figure scoring from four starters and two reserves, including D.J. Augustin, who hit four of seven three pointers on the way to 21 points. Center Joakim Noah had a triple-double of 15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.

“I thought we got tired,” coach Rick Adelman said of his Wolves, playing the second of back-to-back games. “We were slow moving. When we got shots we didn’t have the legs to knock ’em down.”

And the pain just kept coming. Kevin Love got sandwiched between Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy in the first quarter and hyperextended his right (shooting) elbow. He got treatment and returned to the game, but the elbow was clearly bothering him. It makes him at least a question mark for Friday’s game with Houston.

“I tried to keep it loose the whole game,” said Love, who finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds but shot just 7-for-20 — 2-for-9 in the second half. “I’ll try to get treatment until Friday and see how it feels. But I should have made a lot of the open shots I missed. It was bothering me a little bit, but that’s no excuse for the poor shooting.”

If this all feels familiar, it should. The Wolves (39-39), maddeningly inconsistent all season, fell back to .500 for the 23rd time this season.

And this with Houston coming to town Friday to face a Wolves team that just might be without yet another starter.

“[The Bulls] were sitting there for three days, waiting to play us,” Adelman said. “It was just one of those things. It looked like we ran out of gas in the second half.”


• With 1,908 points this season, Love needs to average 20 points over the final four games to become the leading single-season scorer in franchise history. Love, who had his league-leading 62nd double-double Wednesday, also moved into second place on the team’s all-time single-season scoring list. He needs 80 points to pass Kevin Garnett, who scored 1,987 points in 2003-04 while earning NBA MVP honors.

•â€¯Adelman said he thought Rubio’s 23-point, 10-for-17 shooting performance Tuesday, which also came with seven assists, might be the most well-rounded game Rubio has played for the team. Rubio was shooting 49.1 percent in April before Wednesday’s 5-for-14 performance.