Wolves once again run out of energy in loss to San Antonio

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 14, 2013 - 6:47 AM

The Spurs won going away, inflicting the third road defeat in a row on a team that sounds tired of hearing the injury excuse.

SAN ANTONIO - The Timberwolves collectively won't admit there's frustration creeping into an injury-marred season that already is in danger of slipping away before their very eyes.

But you could hear it in Sunday's 106-88 loss to the San Antonio Spurs when Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio let loose in the fourth quarter a primal scream not heard from him since he last back yard wrestled.

Trailing by just four in the third quarter's final two minutes, the Wolves surrendered a 17-6 run that ensured their 16th consecutive loss over the past nine seasons at AT&T Center, dating to January 2004.

The Wolves have lost the first three games of a four-game trip that ends Monday in Dallas.

They also have fallen two games below .500 -- at 16-18 -- for the first time since they were 6-8 following a loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles on Nov. 28.

The Wolves got reserve guard J.J. Barea back from his back injury and 15th man Lazar Hayward back from a sinus infection Sunday, but the increase in healthy players back to 11 -- or 10 1/2 if you count the minutes restriction on Rubio -- couldn't keep them from once again getting overwhelmed in the fourth quarter.

The Wolves have allowed an average of 31 points on opponents' 58.2 percent shooting in their past four games, all of them played without coach Rick Adelman.

Veteran guard Luke Ridnour said after Sunday's game that he doesn't want to hear any more about his team's diminished numbers without injured Kevin Love, Chase Budinger, Brandon Roy and Malcolm Lee.

"You know what, I'm tired of hearing that," Ridnour said. "Guys are out, so what? Everyone's got guys out. We've got to find a way to win games. Whether guys are in or out, we still have to play 48 minutes. We're all professionals. We have to find a way to get a win."

The Southwest Division-leading Spurs (29-11) were completely healthy Sunday until star sixth man Manu Ginobili left the game late in the first half because of a strained hamstring and never returned.

A 20-point, six-assist game from Tony Parker, three three-pointers from sub Gary Neal and seven blocked shots from evergreen Tim Duncan were more than enough from a San Antonio team that ran the Wolves to exhaustion by outscoring them 32-10 in fast-break points.

"I don't know," Duncan said when asked what got into him. "They just kept coming at me."

Gregg Popovich's team led by 13 in the fourth quarter, and yet he still didn't want to stick around to see the end. The longtime Spurs coach got two technical fouls whistled on him in succession for arguing a foul call with 7 minutes, 22 seconds left and called it a night.

Hey, aren't the Wolves supposed to be the frustrated ones?

"You're always frustrated when you're losing," forward Andrei Kirilenko said. "We can't let it go to our heads right now. We have to keep playing. Right now is a very important stretch."

Following Monday's game at Dallas, the Wolves will play nine of their next 12 games at home heading toward the All-Star break while basketball boss David Kahn talks trades and pursues signing European free agent Mickael Gelabale to address the team's defensive and three-point-shooting deficiencies.

"Tomorrow's a big game and then we go home," Barea said. "Yeah, it's tough losing guys, but it's a long season. I'm going to do my best to keep everybody positive. I've been through this before. We've just got to figure it out, you know?"

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