MEMPHIS - A strange, spiraling Timberwolves season turned just a bit stranger with Sunday's 105-88 loss at Memphis that started without coach Rick Adelman and ended with their 15th loss in the past 17 games.
Adelman stayed behind Saturday when the Wolves flew to Memphis so he could spend an extra night at home with his wife, Mary Kay, who is recovering from seizures that caused Adelman to take a recent three-week absence.
His commercial flight scheduled Sunday morning was delayed nearly four hours by the winter storm that dumped ice and snow across Minnesota. He landed in Memphis 20 minutes before the 5 p.m. opening tip and walked to his team's bench escorted by a police officer four minutes into the game, taking his place in a chair left open for him near the scorer's table.
By then, he already had had quite a day -- "I did, but that's the way it is," he said -- and that didn't include his team being overrun all night by a reconfigured Grizzlies team starting to put the financially motivated Rudy Gay trade behind it.
The Wolves played on without both small forward Andrei Kirilenko and guard J.J. Barea, absences that once again left them with only nine healthy bodies even with newly signed Mickael Gelabale and Chris Johnson ready and able to play.
With Kirilenko sidelined, the Wolves were without their defensive anchor, an absence that showed through when they didn't get their first fast-break point until the third quarter and got outscored 20-4 in that category by a Grizzlies team they just couldn't stop.
"They didn't let us get any easy baskets," said Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio, whose 17 points were a season high.
Kirilenko missed his second consecutive game because of a strained quad suffered Wednesday against San Antonio.
''It really hurts us," Adelman said. "He's our best defender. He's the guy who holds us together."
Memphis starting small forward Tayshaun Prince -- one of three players acquired when the Grizzlies traded Gay and his mammoth contract to Toronto in a three-way deal -- made all eight shots. Meanwhile, his team recorded 30 assists and the Wolves never could seem to get a meaningful defensive stop.
"Obviously, I don't expect to have games like that," Prince said.
Barea warmed up before the game hopeful he could play on a foot sprained in the first half of Friday's home loss to the New York Knicks. He went back to the locker room to have it re-taped and came out to play, but returned to the locker room just minutes before the opening tip after he deemed it too sore.
That left the Wolves with three healthy guards, a problematic situation for a coach who has taken to playing three guards together as he did for much of Friday's game against the Knicks.
"We're really short at guards, and we're really short at small forwards," Adelman said. "But you've got to deal with it."
The score was tied at 32 with 4:36 left in the second quarter, but the Grizzlies went on a 15-3 run that changed the game.
The Grizzlies led 47-37 at halftime, then scored 11 of the third quarter's first 13 points to take a 19-point lead that they ran up to as many as 21 points. The Wolves never got closer than 11 points again.
"We were in pretty good shape and then they made that little run right toward the end of the first half," Adelman said. "They opened it up. We gave up way too many fast-break baskets, and that was a big difference. We never controlled them at all."