Wolves can't overcome slow start, poor shooting in loss to Cavs
NOV 04, 2013 8:35p ET
Not after the Timberwolves surrendered a 23-point lead to the NBA's coldest shooting team coming in. Not with Ricky Rubio becoming such a non-factor that Rick Adelman benched him the entire fourth quarter. Not with Anderson Varejao throwing off J.J. Barea's last-second push toward the hoop long enough to force a dish to a contested Kevin Love.
And not with that patented left-wing 3 that's already sent one game to overtime this season bouncing off the back iron.
Even after it stormed back in the fourth quarter, Minnesota's final look at escaping Cleveland with a fourth straight win to open the year concluded like so many failed possessions before it: just off the mark. Love hit from almost the exact same spot with 10 seconds left to tie the Timberwolves' season-opening victory over Orlando last week, but his catch-and-shoot off an arching pass from Barea on this occasion bricked.
"It was a great look," Adelman said, "but everything was supposed to go right."
On this night, a lot didn't.
The Quicken Loans Arena scoreboard read 93-92 as Love, the skin around his left eye darkening a little after being bumped twice in the fourth quarter, walked off the floor. The final tally suggested a tightly contested game, but until the final frame -- particularly the last 4:48 -- it was anything but.
That's when Love's 3-point play sparked a 15-2 run that brought the Timberwolves (3-1) back within a point of tying. To be in that position at all took some doing.
"I think we just fought," said Love, who was named the Western Conference player of the week earlier Monday.
Minnesota took 94 shots and missed 60 of them. Nikola Pekovic got pushed around in the paint. Rubio had five assists and five steals but didn't make a shot, causing Adelman to go with Barea instead down the stretch. Kevin Martin scored a game-high 23 points and made 5 of 8 3s, but his teammates went 0-for-20 from beyond the arc.
The last miss hurt the most.
"I got a really good look at a 3," said Love, who tabulated his fourth straight double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds. "It felt good, just hit the back rim and out. It just seemed like K-Mart was the only guy who could find his legs from outside tonight."
C.J. Miles' 19 points led four Cavaliers with 12 or more. Cleveland (2-2) shot 45.9 percent from the floor after entering at a league-worst 38.2-percent clip.
To the delight of 17,892 fans in the hometown of Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders, Cleveland went up 72-49 on an Alonzo Gee 3 with 4:54 left in the third quarter. From that point on, Minnesota outscored its Eastern Conference adversary 43-21.
The Cavaliers turned the ball over 11 times in the fourth and went 7-for-22 from the field, allowing a Timberwolves lineup that included reserves Barea (eight points, six in the fourth period) and Derrick Williams (13, nine) to claw back.
"We started defending," Adelman said. "We didn't defend them the whole first half into the third quarter, and then we got after it."
But they never overcame by far their slowest start of the year, the product of the back end of a road back-to-back and a physical beating administered by Cleveland.
Miles came off the bench late in the first quarter and scored 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the second. The ninth-year veteran scored 10 straight points on a pair of 3s, a turnaround jump shot over Barea, and an authoritative dunk as he swooped through the heart of the Timberwolves' defense.
During the first half, Cleveland shot 54.5 percent and outscored Minnesota 26-10 in the paint to take a 55-38 cushion into the break. In its first three outings, Minnesota hadn't scored less than 34 points in the first quarter alone.
One of the league's hottest teams coming in, the Timberwolves converted just 12 field goals (29.3 percent) before halftime. Martin, though, picked up where he left off in a 30-point performance Sunday at New York and hit four of his triples on the way to 16 first-half points.
None of his teammates, including Love, scored more than four points during the first two frames.
"We missed a lot (of good shots), but that's all about your mental approach to the game, too," Adelman said. "We didn't have the ball movement we needed to have. We were very stagnant."
Coming off their first back-to-back of the year, Minnesota's players have the day off Tuesday then regroup for a home matchup Wednesday against Dallas.
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