MEMPHIS, TENN. - From the start of this up-and-down season, the Timberwolves have done a pretty good job of atoning for the past. One after another, the Wolves have ended nasty losing streaks to the likes of Dallas, San Antonio, Portland. But a few remain.
And this is one of them.
Once again, after a nasty, back-and-forth affair, the Timberwolves lost to Memphis at FedExForum. After Tuesday's 93-86 loss, some of the Wolves cried foul -- or, at least, whispered it -- after the Grizzlies more than doubled the Wolves' production at the free throw line.
But the loss had a very familiar feeling. The Grizzlies set the tone and got the calls. Memphis scored 21 points off Wolves turnovers, outscored Minnesota in the paint and was the aggressor in the crucial fourth quarter. The result? The Wolves' sixth consecutive loss here and their 10th in the past 11 trips to Memphis.
"I think they shot 28 free throws to our 13," noted Kevin Love, who scored 28 points and had 11 rebounds. "And, you know, without going too far to get fined, you guys saw what happened out there."
Yes, it was all right there.
Down six early in the third quarter, the Wolves put together their best five minutes of the evening. The 20-6 run started with Wes Johnson's jumper, included eight points from Love and ended with Johnson's layup with 5:45 left in the quarter that gave the Wolves a 63-55 lead.
That lead was still at five when Wolves coach Rick Adelman decided to let Love rest for the final 2:42 of the quarter. That didn't work out.
The Grizzlies scored the final six points of the quarter, a run that started with Rudy Gay getting two of his 21 points on a driving dunk and ended with Zach Randolph's layup. As Love noted, it gave the Grizzlies a springboard into the final quarter.
The Wolves never led again, though not everybody might agree about the reason.
"You want me to say it?" Adelman asked. "I'm not going to say it. It's pretty obvious what the difference was. Four straight plays went the other way."
Actually there were a couple stretches in the final quarter when the Grizzlies' aggressive play got them to the line. Early on, four consecutive free throws by Randolph gave the Grizzlies a 5-point lead. Later in the quarter, with the Wolves down to three, the Grizzlies made more repeat trips to the line. Four free throws by Gay and a tip-in by Dante Cunningham with 5:21 left put the lead at nine and the Wolves couldn't recover. The Wolves did not attempt a fourth-quarter free throw.
"They get into you and they're very physical," said Adelman about Memphis.
"They set the tone," Adelman continued, "figuring that things aren't going to be called. They have good, active people out there. Give 'em credit."
And now Wednesday's game at Charlotte becomes even more of a must-win.
"They have to respond," Adelman said. Added Love: "I'm not saying [Wednesday] night is one we should win. But if we come and give a great effort like we did tonight, we'll give ourselves a good shot."
The good news is the Wolves don't come to Memphis again this season.
"I have to plead the Fifth on that," said Luke Ridnour when asked about the officiating. "But it was tough, man. We're out there battling, and you wish you could get some of those calls at the other end."