PORTLAND, ORE - In the desperation of Thursday's lopsided TNT loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles, Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio provided a moment of inspiration that became a popular video snippet on the Internet.
Wired for sound by the network, Rubio came out of a timeout with teammate Alexey Shved, tapped the rookie guard on the back of his head in the midst of Shved's 1-for-8 shooting night and said: "Alexey, change this face. Be happy. Enjoy it."
It's tough to be a Timberwolf these days, but Rubio promises he won't let losing like he has never experienced before or yet more injuries get him or his teammates down.
The Wolves started Thursday's 116-94 loss to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers missing starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko (strained calf) and then lost starting center Nikola Pekovic in the first quarter because of strained abdominal muscles.
"It's tough, there's nothing we can do, just have to get through this and play the players we are," Rubio said. "It has been a tough season, but we have to learn from it. We can't give up. We have to fight every game and learn from this experience ... We're trying to build something here."
They likely will forge ahead without either Kirilenko or Pekovic when the Wolves end a three-game Western trip on Saturday night in Portland.
These latest injuries once again left the Wolves with just nine healthy players. They did not practice on Friday in Portland and have canceled their customary Saturday morning shootaround.
"We just don't have the guys," said coach Rick Adelman, who relied upon former D League center Chris Johnson to play nearly 18 minutes against Lakers center Dwight Howard on Thursday.
And rather than getting better, it just seems to be getting worse. "I've never seen anything like this," Adelman said. "It's not just getting injuries. When guys do start trickling back, they haven't played together. We've got no rhythm as a team. We're just trying to fit people in. It has just been horrendous. And it's not one, it's one, two, three guys, and it has been really frustrating.
"I give our guys credit. They're still trying. They're still trying to fight through it. After a while, it gets really old. The schedule doesn't stop, you have to keep playing."
With Kirilenko out and Pekovic then down, Adelman ultimately asked Rubio to defend Bryant on Thursday after starting out by putting power forward Derrick Williams against him.
Bryant made four threes and scored 31 of his 33 points by midway through the third quarter before he and Steve Nash sat for the entire fourth quarter because the Lakers led big.
"You just have to do what you have to do, no questions asked," Williams said. "Coach tells you what to do and you just have to do it. I was guarding Kobe, Luke was guarding Earl Clark or Ron Artest pretty much all game. With the lineup we have and the people we have, you have to do things like that. It's going to be tough on all of us."