Wolves starters play their way to the bench in loss at Utah

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 3, 2013 - 5:49 AM

 The 22-point loss was Minnesota's worst of the season and dropped its record to 14-14 with the Nuggets looming in a back-to-back.

SALT LAKE CITY - Lifeless, lethargic, lazy or however you want to term it using an 'L' word or not, the Timberwolves lost 106-84 at Utah on Wednesday in a game in which they seemingly had no chance from the second quarter on.

Now they get to do it all over again Thursday night in Denver against another divisional opponent with whom they'll be competing for a playoff spot.

That is, if they don't keep playing like they did Wednesday night.

With his team trailing by 10 midway through the second quarter and by 20 midway through the third, Wolves coach Rick Adelman sent little-used Lou Amundson into the game before that third quarter was through, sat his starting frontcourt out the entire fourth quarter and watched backup center Greg Stiemsma foul out in only eight minutes played and march straight into the locker room with 3:15 remaining.

"I don't want to talk about it," Stiemsma said afterward.

Yes, it was one of those nights.

"We haven't had a game like this in a long time," Adelman said. "Toronto is one I can think of, and we came back from that game. We haven't had a game like this and we have to see what we're made of tomorrow."

The 22-point defeat was their largest of the season, three points more than the aforementioned Toronto game that came way back in the season's second game when both Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love started the season out injured.

The Wolves responded back in early November with a spunky comeback victory at Brooklyn two nights later that started them off on a three-game winning streak.

On Wednesday, they again played without Rubio, who stayed home from this quick two-game Western trip because of back spasms that flared in practice last Friday.

This time, they played with something still clearly ailing Love, whether it be a hurting hand, a damaged psyche or a predilection for appealing to the officials for calls he never received.

Love made four of 14 field-goal attempts -- including going 0-for-4 on three-pointers -- and now is shooting 33.3 percent in his past five games and 35.4 percent for the season.

"I had great shots, even before the game the shot felt great," Love said. "Another bunch of shots that were there. It's going to come. If you're telling me I'm taking bad shots or shots that I don't usually make, you're fooling yourself and you're fooling me."

With the loss, the Wolves fell back to .500 -- at 14-14 -- and they are somehow there in a season when Rubio has been no factor and Love is a mere shadow so far of the guy who made the past two All-Star Games.

"He can't get unaggressive," Adelman said of Love. "He's got to take his shots. He's got to continue to play. I thought a couple games there he was backing away from shots, not quite sure what to do. He's done it his whole life, made shots. He just has to stay with it and we just have to keep going to him."

Adelman sat down Love and starting frontcourt mates Nikolai Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko for the entire fourth quarter because the Wolves trailed by 13 points by then and showed no signs of a pulse in a game the Jazz dominated physically and imposed its will (25-9 in fast-break points).

The Jazz outscored the Wolves 56-36 in points in the paint on a night when Kirilenko returned to Utah and discovered what it was like to play with the Jazz's fervent crowd against him while former coach Jerry Sloan watched on.

"It's just one of those games you have," Kirilenko said. "For some reason, we couldn't make a shot five, six times in a row, couldn't make a layup. It's all together, like an avalanche 10, 15 possessions. That's a pretty bad night for us."

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