Wolves bumble, rally, fall short

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 28, 2011 - 9:27 AM

After handling the Bucks twice in preseason, the Wolves trailed in the first half before mounting a comeback that missed by a bucket.

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MILWAUKEE - This time, when it counted for real, the Timberwolves once again went looking for some last-minute magic at Bradley Center and came away with nothing but a 98-95 loss to the Bucks.

Six days after they scored the game's final 12 points to win a preseason game they had no business winning, the Wolves surrendered 60 first-half points, committed 25 turnovers and trailed by 20 points in the second half and still had a chance to win when Kevin Love's last-second, game-tying three-pointer missed.

The Wolves beat the Bucks twice in the NBA's truncated two-week preseason, then went to Milwaukee on Tuesday without head coach Rick Adelman and lost both a game and maybe veteran guard J.J. Barea for a while after he injured his hamstring in the fourth quarter.

"We were just throwing the ball all over the place, terrible," said Barea, who grimaced repeatedly while getting slowly dressed afterward. "To try to come back from 20 points down in this league is just too hard."

Yet, the Wolves did, rallying from an 11-point deficit with less than six minutes left with a 15-6 run that got them within 94-92 with two minutes left before Bucks rookie and Orono's own Jon Leuer provided a crucial dunk and three-point play that repelled the Wolves for good.

"If we can play that poorly and still have a chance to win it at the end, we're going to win a lot of ballgames," All-Star forward Kevin Love said, keeping the faith after he set franchise records for free-throws attempted (24) and made (19) and record yet another 31-point, 20-rebound double-double.

On Monday, the Wolves took mighty Oklahoma City down to the final three seconds before losing their season opener before a standing-room-only crowd at Target Center.

On Tuesday, with Adelman away from the team to attend a family funeral, the Wolves didn't really compete with a Bucks team that had lost in Charlotte the night before until the game's final quarter.

The wise guys on Twitter wondered during much of the second half if Kurt Rambis wasn't subbing as the team's defensive coordinator on a night when top assistant Terry Porter replaced Adelman on the bench and the Wolves committed the kind of turnovers that drove Adelman to distraction during the preseason.

"You can turn the ball over, but not 25 in a game," Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio said. "It was more us than them. They defense well, but we hurry up a lot of times and we make a lot of stupid passes. It was hard to control the game with those turnovers."

Rubio and fellow point guards Barea and Luke Ridnour combined for 12 assists and not a single turnover in the 70 minutes total they played together Monday against the Thunder.

On Tuesday, they had 11 of the team's 25 turnovers on a night when it was a good thing -- strictly from a basketball perspective, that is -- that Adelman was far away.

During training camp, he said his new team turns the ball over better than any other team he has ever seen and wryly suggested he had petitioned the league for a new rule that would award the Wolves a point for every turnover committed.

"They denied it," he said then, "so we're going to have to play by the rules."

If those rules had been changed, Tuesday's outcome never would have been in doubt.

Afterward, Love was asked if Adelman's absence affected the game's outcome.

"Rick is a very calming influence, but that was on us tonight," Love said. "It had nothing to do with T.P. [Terry Porter] being up there. He kept us calm and collected as well. We're all out there together. They're not the ones making plays, not the ones making the turnovers and mistakes. We are."

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