Nikola Pekovic joined the too-long list of injured starters as Minnesota scrambles to persevere and lost another game on the road.
PORTLAND - Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio became something of an Internet sensation -- again -- after a TNT microphone captured him attempting to inspire teammate Alexey Shved on Thursday night in Los Angeles by saying, "Change this face. Be happy. Enjoy it."
The pertinent question after the Wolves ended a three-game road trip winless with a 109-94 loss at Portland on Saturday when Rose Garden fans cheered Brandon Roy near the start and got free chalupas near the end:
Has he tried that with his coach yet?
"No, he's never told me that," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "I don't know if it'd do much good."
Adelman's stare rarely changes, and it certainly never softens during a stretch like this, where the Wolves just continue to lose games -- and starters.
On Saturday, center Nikola Pekovic joined small forward Andrei Kirilenko as another starter missing, so Adelman simply addressed more bad news with the team's 15th different starting lineup this season.
"You start losing games like this, you've got to keep the guys believing you can win," he said. "And we can, but it's got to be all nine guys; it can't be four or five."
The Wolves once again were down to just nine healthy players while Pekovic nursed an abdominal strain sustained in Thursday's first quarter -- he said it remained sore Saturday and he'll undergo an MRI on Monday -- and Kirilenko remained out because of a strained quad while injured Kevin Love and Brandon Roy watched from separate vantage points inside the Rose Garden.
So Adelman started Mickael Gelabale at Kirilenko's spot and Greg Stiemsma at Pekovic's center spot, and the Timberwolves attempted to persevere yet one more night without much chance against a Blazers team that is troublesome even when the Wolves are healthy.
The Blazers had lost eight of their previous nine games entering Saturday, but they built their lead all night, from 14 points late in the first quarter and 17 midway through the third quarter to 18 midway through the fourth quarter.
Ultimately, the Wolves didn't have nearly enough scoring to offset the Blazers' Damian Lillard (24 points), J.J. Hickson (18) and LaMarcus Aldridge (17).
"We just didn't have enough," Adelman said, echoing a nightly theme. "Guys played hard, just couldn't get through."
The best the Wolves could do was get 23 points from Derrick Williams, 18 from Luke Ridnour, 16 from Dante Cunningham and another near triple-double from Ricky Rubio (12 points, nine assists, nine rebounds).
"Of course, they are stats," Rubio said, "but the stats I care about are winning and losing."
After Saturday's game, Rubio looked like he could use somebody to pat him on his back and encourage him to change his face and be happy.
It's a reminder that's hard to remember some nights, he said.
Particularly when you've lost four in a row and 20 of the past 24, as the Wolves have done.
"We have to enjoy it," he said afterward. "It's a game. I know sometimes it's tough when you lose and all this stuff, but you have to enjoy the game. It's frustrating, I understand. It's hard when you lose that many games."
Rubio grinned when asked if he has tried his "Change this face" line on his coach yet.
"Did somebody write that for him?" Adelman asked. "I think that's something TNT came up with. I wouldn't be surprised."
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