If only the Timberwolves could have banked just one shot from forward Dante Cunningham's perfect Saturday night and spent it in the final seconds of Monday's 100-98 loss to Portland at Target Center ...
If only they hadn't fallen behind Monday by 19 points again, just three days after they trailed the Lakers by 29 points and two days after they led New Orleans by 34 ...
If only they knew by now exactly where -- with Kevin Love's absence expected for another six weeks or more and Andrei Kirilenko lost to a strained thigh in Monday's second quarter -- and into whose hands they want the ball with the game on the line ...
If only, with their 12th loss in the past 14 games, this season weren't slipping away after the Wolves all but promised the playoffs or bust ...
If only ...
"We lost a great opportunity today," Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio said. "We are a little farther now. There are not a lot of chances left, and we have to take it."
The Wolves trailed by those 19 points after three quarters and by 13 with 3 miuntes, 59 seconds left, and still had two chances to tie the score in the final eight seconds.
Each failed against a remade Trail Blazers team that's now two games above .500 and chasing the West's final playoff spot while the Wolves are sinking from sight.
The Wolves scored on 21 of their first 23 fourth-quarter possessions, scoring at will with Rubio attacking the Blazers defense with pick-and-rolls and finding Cunningham free for open jumpers.
Cunningham scored 17 of his 23 in that final quarter, and Rubio recorded the second 10-assist quarter of his career and the fifth in team history.
They used a 14-2 run late in the game to twice get within a point, but they could go no further. Rubio's forced shot after dribbling all around the basket was partially blocked by Blazers star LaMarcus Aldridge with eight seconds left and, after Aldridge missed two free throws, Cunningham's open 18-foot jumper from the left wing fell well short at the final buzzer.
The Wolves' frantic finish almost rescued them from another lousy start in which they once again allowed Portland starting guards Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard to shoot -- and score -- at will.
The two combined for 43 points, their fewest together in three games against the Wolves this season.
"We can't come out and play for 30 minutes in a 48-minute game, and we did that," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said.
Adelman's team has trailed by double digits 25 times this season and come back to win four times. On Monday, it forced 28 Portland turnovers -- just one shy of the franchise record by an opponent -- and still lost.
The Wolves have won three times since Portland last visited a month ago, on Jan. 5.
"We didn't learn the lesson from the games before," Rubio said. "It's hard, hard to figure out. We have to start harder if we want to win the game. We showed that we can do that in the fourth quarter. I don't know; we're going to try and figure out how to play 48 minutes.
"I think we know we are capable to do it. The only thing we have to do is bring the energy. Sometimes it seems -- like today, it was awful. In the first quarter, nobody put any energy, me first. We have to play more aggressive if we want any chance to be in the playoffs."