Latest Wolves defeat is a spark for upcoming homestand

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGB LOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 28, 2013 - 6:34 AM

Desperation three-pointer stung, but Wolves showed they're still competing.

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Timberwolves temporary head coach Terry Porter

Photo: Chuck Burton, Associated Press

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J.J. Barea was clearly still frustrated. It was moments after the Wolves had lost for the ninth time in 10 games Saturday, by one point to a Charlotte Bobcats team that had lost its past 16 home games. The Timberwolves had just seen Gerald Henderson's frantic hope of a three-point shot hit home with 4.6 seconds left.

And yet Barea was looking ahead, not back.

"Today we had a chance," he said. "We did everything we needed to do to give us a chance to win the game. Just bad luck. We have to forget about it. Now we're home for a while. We have six at home. We'd better get this going."

Despite the injuries that have crippled the team all season and having to play a chunk of the season with head coach Rick Adelman away, the Wolves are not checking out. It may just be their competitive nature, but the players in the visiting locker room Saturday night were able to take some positives out of the loss.

"We're going through a lot of stuff," Ricky Rubio said. "But we have to get strong on our court, with our fans, and try to win games."

Starting Wednesday against the Los Angeles Clippers, the slumping Wolves will play a crucial stretch of six consecutive home games.

"It's a big part of what's going on, making a big push before the All-Star break," Luke Ridnour said. "If we can get healthier and just go on a run ... we're still not out of it. We just have to stay positive and try to make something happen."

Here are some reasons the Wolves feel like they have a chance to right the ship going forward:

Saturday's fourth-quarter rally

The bad news is the Wolves, up 13 in the third quarter, found themselves down eight with 7:11 left in the fourth. The good news is the team didn't give up. The team used a 10-2 run -- with Ridnour scoring the first five -- to tie the score, setting in motion the chaotic final minutes of the game.

"We've done that all year," Ridnour said. "We have kept fighting with all the injuries. But, man, you do wish you could pull away with a win out of here."

Rubio's improvement

Rubio appeared to take another step in his recovery from knee surgery.

Playing on the back end of back-to-back games for just the third time this season, Rubio played 29 minutes and had one of his most effective games. He had the game's best plus/minus rating at plus-23. He scored 14 points, the first time he was in double figures this season. He also had eight assists and five steals.

Inserted back into the game in the fourth, he helped lead the Wolves' late comeback. He had three of his steals and two assists in the final seven minutes. And it was his baseline drive and reverse layup that gave Minnesota a two-point lead with 29.2 seconds left.

Having Rubio at full strength would be a huge plus moving forward. "I felt pretty good today," Rubio said. "And I was trying to be more aggressive."

Health in general

The team isn't going to get Kevin Love or Chase Budinger back any time soon. But there is a good chance center Nikola Pekovic (thigh contusion) and guard Alexey Shved (sprained left ankle) could return during the upcoming homestand.

With three days between games, there is a chance Shved could be back in time for Wednesday's game.

Ultimately if the team is going to be relevant this season, the next six games will be crucial.

"It's about our guys responding," acting head coach Terry Porter said. "[Saturday's] game is going to sting a little bit. But we get a day off [Sunday], then come back fresh and ready to attack it, ready to get some wins in front of our fans."

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    Up next: 7 p.m. Wednesday vs. L.A. Clippers Target Center • TV: FSN (830-AM)

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