Chase Budinger, tired and sore, was dressing slowly after the Timberwolves’ 99-86 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night at Target Center.
“That second half, we kind of just hit a wall, offensively,” he said.
Actually, the Wolves kind of hit a wall, period. Maybe it was the rugged front line of Grizzlies center Marc Gasol and forward Zach Randolph, extra tough on a night when Wolves center Nikola Pekovic was out because of a sprained left ankle. Maybe it was the collective weight of playing a seventh game in 10 nights.
Whatever it was, that wall was solid, unyielding.
After building a 50-45 halftime lead, the Wolves’ offense went haywire, the execution breaking down, the shots clanking off the rim, possession after possession ending with a turnover. Strong defense kept the Wolves in the game through three quarters. But in the fourth the Grizzlies turned the defensive screw one more time.
Minnesota shot 10-for-30 in the second half, getting outscored 54-36. The Wolves went the first 7:34 of the third quarter without a basket and were outscored 16-2 to start the fourth.
The Wolves also turned the ball over 17 times to just 10 for the Grizzlies. And Minnesota missed 11 free throws, hitting just 23 of 34.
After Friday’s encouraging victory over Oklahoma City, the Wolves were looking for consecutive victories for the first time since Dec. 15. Now they’ll have to wait a little longer.
“Even in the third quarter we were defending well enough,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said of his team, which still led by two entering the fourth. “But then, in the fourth quarter, they locked in. And they started making shots. We couldn’t do anything on offense. We just had no answers.”
The Grizzlies jumped on pick-and-rolls and clogged up the middle. Gasol had 21 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three blocks. Guard Mike Conley hit all three of his three-point attempts on the way to 19 points. Darrell Arthur came off the bench to score 15, 11 in the fourth quarter. Randolph scored 14.
That was more than enough to make up for another productive night by Ricky Rubio, who came one assist shy of his second career triple-double. He had 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Derrick Williams (19) and Greg Stiemsma (12) also scored in double figures.
“They play aggressive,” Rubio said. “We have to be ready. We did a good job in the first half. I don’t know if it was that we were tired or not, but in the second half we didn’t play good at all. They play physical, they took it to another level.”
The Wolves? They lost to Memphis for the 11th consecutive time, the fifth in a row at home and for the third this season.
“It was brutal, brutal,” guard J.J. Barea said. “We came out flat in the second half, and they did a good job. They ramped up their defense and they stopped us. And that was the game right there.”
Pekovic missed the game because of a sprained left ankle sustained in Friday’s victory over Oklahoma City. He got taped up Saturday and apparently gave it a try before it was decided the ankle was too stiff to play on.
Pekovic had 22 points and 15 rebounds Friday against the Thunder in what was his eighth game back after missing eight games because of an abdominal strain. Saturday marked the 16th game Pekovic has missed because of injury this season.