MEMPHIS – Timberwolves star Kevin Love admitted Monday’s 109-92 loss at Memphis felt something like an emotional hangover one night after his team lost a big lead to Phoenix — and ultimately, a home game that doused what few playoff hopes still remained.
Now the question is: Will those blues linger for another 13 games until yet another season ends once again right around tax day?
On Sunday afternoon, the Wolves scored 41 first-quarter points and led the Suns by 22 points in the second quarter before losing to an opponent they must catch to reach the playoffs for the first time in a decade.
On Monday night, against a defensive-minded Grizzlies team that is fighting the premium-fueled Suns for the West’s eighth and final playoff spot, they scored only 39 points by halftime, 15 in the opening quarter.
Love and Wolves coach Rick Adelman were reluctant to give all the credit to a Memphis defense that limited the mighty Indiana Pacers to 71 points in Saturday’s home victory.
“I mean, they’re a good defensive team, but everybody missed shots,” said Adelman, whose team made five of 24 shots (20.8 percent) in that first quarter. “I don’t know if it was their defense as much as the way we were shooting the ball.”
With reserve point guard J.J. Barea out because of a sprained foot, Wolves point guards Ricky Rubio and Alexey Shved combined to shoot 2-for-15 for 11 points, while Grizzlies counterpart Mike Conley went 9-for-12 and scored a team-high 23 points.
Love himself went 6-for-18 and led the Wolves with 16 points, his fewest since a Jan. 25 game at Portland.
“For me, I’m allowed an off game every now and then,” he said.
Love agreed with Adelman about his team’s shooting and added it simply couldn’t get itself prepared to play after Sunday’s sobering loss. A Memphis team with big men Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph pounded away inside at every turn against a Wolves team that again was missing centers Nikola Pekovic and Ronny Turiaf.
“Yesterday’s game took a lot out of us, in every aspect,” Love said.
When asked if the foremost aspect missing on Monday was emotional, Love answered, “No question, no question.”
The Grizzlies led shortly after the opening tap until the final horn, building a 21-point second-quarter lead before the Wolves got within a dozen points three times in the third quarter but couldn’t pull any closer.
In one moment afterward, Adelman said his team played hard enough Monday. In the next, he seemingly contradicted himself.
“We just didn’t compete,” said Adelman, whose team lost its third consecutive game after it had won 10 of 14 before that. “You’ve got to compete. This [Memphis] team is very physical. We talked about it before the game. They’re going to hit you in the mouth. They’re going to come at you. They’re going to jam it inside, and you’ve got to compete against a team like that, and I don’t think we competed as well as we needed to.”
The Wolves fell back under .500 at 34-35. The Grizzlies have won four of five and eight of their past 10 games. They are seventh in the West and aimed at the playoffs with a 42-28 record.
Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger called his team’s performance “impressive professionalism” and the rookie NBA head coach who grew up in Staples, Minn., said, “I’m proud that we’re kind of growing up right now.”
The Timberwolves have 13 games remaining to prove they possess a different sort of professionalism now that their playoff aspirations are all but gone.
“Like I just told them, we’ve got 13 games left,” Adelman said, “and we’ve got to compete and we’ve got to finish the season as best we can.”