When it was all over and they had carefully selected their words in attempts to ease their frustration without lightening their wallets, the Timberwolves lamented Monday’s 100-98 home loss to Dallas both because of their astoundingly uneven performance and Kevin Love’s still presumably incomplete superstar status.
The Wolves had their fifth and final chance this month to push themselves past the .500 mark for the season but failed on a night when they trailed by as many as 21 points, their bench scored just five points and they still walked off the court indignant over an officiating call that never came in the game’s final second.
Love immediately sought out a video replay after Mavericks forward Shawn Marion slapped him across his arms and knocked away the ball before Love could get up a shot that, with his toes on the three-point line, would have sent him to the free-throw line for two shots that could have tied the score and forced overtime.
Afterward, the Wolves discussed both how they lacked urgency in a game they had every reason to win and how they were wronged by no whistle when the game was on the line and the ball was in the hands of their star who had already delivered another 36-point night.
While Marion sat in the Dallas locker room, chuckling and saying he committed no foul, Wolves coach Rick Adelman expressed his exasperation.
“He got fouled,” Adelman said. “I wonder what that would have been if [Dallas star Dirk] Nowitzki, LeBron James, all the top players in the league … A guy reaches on a last-second shot like that instead of challenging it. Maybe they don’t understand Kevin is one of the top five players in this league.”
Love demonstrated that offensively again Monday when he and Corey Brewer combined to score 26 points while the Wolves outscored the Mavs 38-19 in the third quarter to get back into the game.
Ultimately, though, Marion won the power-forward matchup by scoring 32 points himself — including two clutch three-pointers down the stretch — and by delivering the game-ending play that officially was ruled a blocked shot. The Wolves and their fans protested, their radio announcer shouted his outrage in a call destined to be replayed all day Tuesday and the three-man officiating crew grabbed their stuff and scrammed.
Long after the final horn, Love was asked if he had been fouled. “You saw the replay,” he said.
Then he was asked about Adelman’s comments.
“Of course I agree,” Love said. “I’m the type of person that if you see a foul — an obvious foul — you call it. I thought that was pretty, pretty obvious. Just look at the replay: Without saying too much, you look at the replay and it was obvious he got arm. I didn’t know how to react. I couldn’t, I wasn’t going to yell at him. That wasn’t going to do anything.
“I just walked off the court, just tried to keep my head up.”
Before the game, Wolves veteran Kevin Martin told reporters his young team needs to learn the importance December games might carry in April. The Wolves entered the night chasing Dallas for the West’s eighth and final playoff spot and then found themselves three games behind the Mavericks after they allowed 62 first-half points and trailed by 19 points at intermission.
“There’s no excuse. It was a very important game,” Wolves guard Ricky Rubio said. “This game hurts especially because you don’t get the win and because they get the win. It’s a team you’re fighting with, especially in the West. It’s so close; one game makes a difference. If you lose one game and give one game to them, it’s a lot. It’s more than just one, it’s two or three.”