WASHINGTON – Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman doesn't like to mention the 'P' word — yes that one, playoffs — with such a young team so early in the season, so he just has warned his players repeatedly already that they haven't done anything yet.
And if they want to do anything, they have to win games like Tuesday's 104-100 loss at Washington to a Wizards team that had lost three consecutive games and seven of its first nine.
Leading by 16 points midway through the second quarter, the Wolves were outscored 53-37 in a second half when they turned the ball over 10 times after committing just three in the first half. Those turnovers allowed Washington's former No. 1 overall pick John Wall (14 points, 16 assists) to beat them back down the court in transition and just beat them period to start a stretch where they'll play five games in seven nights.
"This one hurts because we felt like we should have had it," said Wolves star Kevin Love, who scored 16 first-quarter points but was held to nine points the rest of the night.
Every other night after a loss this season, Adelman has addressed his team's defense, or rather the lack of it. This time, he was critical of the league's second-highest-scoring offense and its impatience.
Veteran Kevin Martin made just four of 18 shots and scored 11 points, and Ricky Rubio got into early foul trouble and played, at Adelman's discretion, just 19 minutes.
"Everyone was making the home-run play, trying to win the game in one possession," Adelman said. "It's a young team, and it's early in the season still. When things are going good, they flow pretty good. When they start struggling and miss some shots, they have a tendency to get into panic mode and try to do too much. They've got to move from side to side. They've got to move the ball, and they've got to trust each other. The second half we didn't do that."
Martin's 11 points were 13 below his 24.4-point average.
"We need everybody every night," Adelman said. "We can't usually get by if we have a couple guys with off games."
Rubio played seven minutes in the first half because of foul trouble and played just seven seconds in the fourth quarter — the final seven seconds — because Adelman stayed with backup J.J. Barea for the entire quarter.
Afterward, Adelman said, "I was just playing the people I thought were playing well at the time, that's all."
Rubio played seven minutes in the first quarter after picking up two quick fouls and another 15 seconds in the second quarter after he got his third foul.
"I think it affect me in a bad way," said Rubio, who finished with just 10 points and two assists. "It can't happen again. It got me frustrated, but it's something I have to get through. It [playing time] is coach's decision. I think J.J. was doing a great job. It's something I have to accept. I have to improve, and I have to be better next time."
The Wolves now are 7-5 and must play at home Wednesday against the Clippers and Friday against Brooklyn before visiting Houston on Saturday and Indiana on Monday.
"A good team wins a game like this," Love said. "We feel like we're a better team than they are. We've proven that early on, but the second half they played with more energy and excitement.
''You got a sense it was do-or-die game for them. That's how it needs to be for us every night."