As has happened so often this season, a strong across-the-board effort by Kevin Love was wasted in a difficult loss.
Love scored a game-high 36 points against Phoenix on Sunday afternoon at Target Center. He had 14 rebounds, nine assists, two steals in 38½ minutes of playing time.
Unfortunately for the Wolves, Love did need a rest.
It was with Love on the bench to start the fourth quarter that the Suns, down 10 to start the quarter, took over the game. Once again Love was forced to watch a lineup of mainly reserves squander a double-digit lead, an experience he termed “difficult.”
“We were up 10 going into the fourth,” Love said. “But we had Corey [Brewer] or [Shabazz Muhammad] at the four, which is tough for those guys.”
Love was referring to coach Rick Adelman’s decision to respond to the small lineup the Suns used to start the fourth quarter with a lineup that included starters Brewer and Ricky Rubio with Dante Cunningham, Muhammad and guard J.J. Barea. The strategy forced either Brewer or Muhammad to play slightly out of position.
The Suns opened the fourth with a 14-3 run.
“We couldn’t get anything done,” Adelman said. “We needed everyone to step it up at that point. It just didn’t happen.”
Neither Love nor the rest of the Wolves were able to get their offensive rhythm back. Love was 2-for-8 (0-for-3 on three-pointers) in the final quarter, with a key turnover down the stretch. The Wolves as a team shot 5-for-21 in the final 12 minutes, missing their first eight shots in the quarter.
On the Wolves’ flight home from Houston after Thursday’s game — one in which Gorgui Dieng had 22 points and 21 rebounds starting in place of the injured Nikola Pekovic — Adelman sat down next to Pekovic.
“I asked him on the plane the other day if he’d ever heard of Wally Pipp,” Adelman said. That’s a reference to the New York Yankees first baseman who was given a day off and replaced by a youngster named Lou Gehrig in 1925. Gehrig went on to start the next 2,130 games at first for the Yankees.
Pekovic, who is European-born, didn’t get the reference. “That was a big mistake,” Adelman said. “Because he’d never heard of Wally Pipp, and he’d never heard of Lou Gehrig. So the lesson kind of lost its meaning.”
Pekovic missed his fourth consecutive game because of ankle bursitis.
• Barea played Sunday despite a painful sprained left foot, an injury that has gotten much worse the past two games. His status for Monday’s game in Memphis likely will be a game-time decision. Pekovic remains doubtful for Monday.
• Rubio continued his recent aggressive play, scoring 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting, with nine assists and three steals. Rubio is 17-for-30 from the field in his past three games (56.7 percent) overall and 3-for-7 on three pointers. He also has averaged 10. 7 assists in that time.