Love's lament: Wolves are repeating last year

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 26, 2011 - 7:51 AM

After combining poor first-half defense with awful second-half offense on their way to a seventh loss in a row, the frustration felt by Wolves players was evident.

Minnesota Timberwolves' Michael Beasley, left, lays up over New Orleans Hornets' Emeka Okafor during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 25, 2011, in Minneapolis.

Photo: Jim Mone, Associated Press

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Kevin Love paused before he said it, almost as if the admission was too painful. But it's right there, staring the Timberwolves in the face after yet another dispirited, one-sided loss.

The Wolves -- who lost for the seventh consecutive time Friday night, this time 95-81 to New Orleans at Target Center -- are a young team that looks frustrated.

And, Love finally admitted, it's a team that is also getting discouraged as the season hits the stretch run.

"I'd be lying to you if I said we weren't," Love said on a night his double-double streak hit 45 consecutive games. "I mean, guys are trying to pick each other up. Every day, we come in and play hard and work hard, because this is our job and this is what we have to do. But I'm getting a little discouraged. This is kind of turning into last year. I hate to say that."

There have been so many losses this season, 46 of them, to only 13 victories. It seems you can file each loss into just a few categories. There are nights when the Wolves cannot get defensive stops. Nights when the offense dysfunctions, with shots hitting iron rather than net and turnovers coming rapid-fire.

Friday was kind of a two-fer for the announced crowd of 16,965. The first half was of the no-defense variety. The second half was filled with poor ball movement and a plethora of turnovers.

The Wolves had won both prior meetings with New Orleans this season. This time the Hornets, fighting for playoff position, came in with the intensity needle buried and the Wolves couldn't match it.

"We didn't do enough to get stops," Wolves coach Kurt Rambis said of the first half. The Hornets, who had four starters in double figures, shot 68.2 percent while taking a 35-26 first-quarter lead and extended that lead to 12 at halftime.

"We did a pretty good shot after that, defensively," said Rambis, who guided the Wolves to a 15-67 record last season. "But then we couldn't find a way to score."

The game really got out of hand in the third quarter, a quarter in which the Wolves shot 5-for-18 and turned the ball over nine times. After that, the only drama was seeing whether Love could extend his double-double streak, which he did early in the fourth quarter.

Rookie Wes Johnson -- who played 43-plus minutes in large part because the Wolves didn't have Martell Webster or Wayne Ellington available -- scored 22 points, as did Luke Ridnour. The two guards combined hit on 16 of 30 shots. The rest of the team shot 16-for-50.

That's a lot of misses. And that's a lot of frustration.

"I feel I need to get back to the basics," said Michael Beasley, who had a 4-for-16 shooting night with five turnovers. "I feel I've been playing bad for a long time. ... I don't know what it is. I shoot the ball every day, they're just not dropping. That's what's frustrating. It's not like we're getting different looks or taking tougher shots. They're just not dropping.

"We feel like we're better than what we're showing every night."

With 23 games left in the season, it appears the goal is to get the team moving in the right direction before it's over. Rambis sees a team without a go-to star to right the ship on tough nights. He sees a young team that gets anxious with the ball when the going gets tough.

"The way we're going now, it's not good," Ridnour said. "It's not good basketball. And we have to change that."

It won't be easy.

"I feel like losing so much has discouraged us, slightly," Beasley said. "We just have to get our confidence back, play with confidence and continue to believe in ourselves."

  • NEW ORLEANS 95, WOLVES 81

    Up next: vs. Golden State • 4 p.m. Sunday • Target Center • TV: FSN (1130-AM)

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