INDIANAPOLIS — After a 5-2 start that provided their long-suffering hope for the playoffs and perhaps even a 50-victory season, the Timberwolves now are 8-7 and headed to Indianapolis on Monday to play a Pacers team that shares the NBA’s best record.
They have lost three of their past four games and five of their last seven. They are 6-2 at home but are 2-5 away from Target Center and have lost their last four on the road.
A challenging November schedule in which they will play a franchise-record 18 games by month’s end hasn’t helped. Neither have injuries to key reserves Chase Budinger and Ronny Turiaf that have exposed weaknesses in the team’s depth.
Is it time to worry?
“We’re fine,” Wolves veteran guard Kevin Martin said after Saturday’s 112-101 loss at Houston. “We’re a solid team right now. We’ve got some work to do. It’s a long season. Things will start to work in our favor. Everybody goes through tough stretches. We just have to weather the storm.”
Those foreboding clouds just keep gathering, too: As of Sunday, the Wolves’ next opponents — including the 12-1 Pacers and San Antonio Spurs — have won 75 percent (57-19) of their games. And that Dec. 4 “home” game against the Spurs really isn’t a home game at all: It’s in Mexico City.
“The schedule doesn’t matter,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said after his team fell behind 14-2 early Saturday against a Rockets team missing injured star James Harden. “We have to be ready to go mentally. I don’t think that should have been an issue.”
Saturday’s game was the Wolves’ fourth in five nights, against a Rockets team that hadn’t played since Wednesday.
“The schedule’s tough,” Wolves star Kevin Love said. “I think that’s really what it is, and we’re playing some very good teams, teams that are supposed to be competing for the East and Western conferences. And it doesn’t get any easier for us. We need to keep fighting and eventually we’re going to get better and get back on track.”
Love ranks fourth in the NBA in scoring with a 24.9 point average and second in rebounding with a 13.6 average after Saturday’s 27-point, 15-rebound game against Houston and Rockets coach Kevin McHale, who made a 2008 draft-night trade to acquire Love when he ran the Wolves.
“I didn’t think he’d score as much as he is,” McHale said. “I thought he’d be a double-double, high-teens [in scoring] type of guy. But he has taken it to a whole other level. He expanded his game out to the three-point line. He shoots that with ease and accuracy. He’s one of those unique guys: A ‘stretch 4’ who can bang and rebound and that little jump hook of his always has been solid.”
• The Wolves stayed in Houston Saturday night rather than fly to the next city after the game, as they usually do. They left midday Sunday for Indianapolis with no practice scheduled because they had just played those four games in five nights.
• Wolves rookies Robbie Hummel, Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng headed up to the Rockets’ training facility immediately after the game for conditioning work with the team’s fitness coach.