By Jerry Zgoda, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –
MINNEAPOLIS — The last time the Minnesota Timberwolves threw the basketball around so recklessly, at least their coach didn’t have to watch it.
(PHOTO: The Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love (42) is fouled by the Dallas Mavericks’ Brandan Wright during the first half at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Friday, February 10, 2012. Dallas topped Minnesota, 103-97.)
The Wolves trumped the 26 times they turned the ball over during the season’s second game at Milwaukee by committing 28 turnovers in Friday’s 104-97 loss to Dallas.
And this time, Rick Adelman saw every one.
The Wolves could have moved into winning territory for the season and swept the Mavericks for the first time since the 1995-96 season, when a scrawny kid named Kevin Garnett was a rookie.
They could have if they weren’t so careless with the ball and if Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki didn’t look every bit the player who on Thursday was voted into his 11th All-Star Game by scoring a season-high 33 points.
After his postgame sermon, you expected Adelman to send every player home with a ball to cuddle all night long before Saturday’s home game against 6-day-old sensation Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks.
“You can turn the ball over making a play,” said Adelman, who missed the season’s second game to attend a family funeral, “but we turned it over just so casual. We get the ball and you just flip it. The ball’s precious. We preach to them all the time that we want to defend better and then when we finally did make stops, we just handed it back.”
Seven Timberwolves committed three turnovers or more. Kevin Love had five in his first game back from a two-game NBA suspension but said the brief layoff had nothing to do with a night when he also delivered his eighth 30-10 game, scoring 32 points and adding 12 rebounds.
Rookie point guard Ricky Rubio committed four after the Mavericks stuck big Shawn Marion on him. He also had eight assists, and when asked after the game why he had so few assists, he asked, “That’s not that many?”
Rubio adjusted to Marion’s length and bulk, leading the Wolves on a 19-5 run that slashed a 17-point, third-quarter deficit to three points a minute into the fourth quarter.
But they got no closer after Mavs veteran Jason Kidd, playing his first game after missing six because of a strained calf, repelled them with a clutch three-pointer that led Dallas off on an 11-2 run of its own.
Kidd committed eight turnovers himself, but the Mavs committed only 18 combined, and they outscored the Wolves by 23 points when Kidd was on the floor.
“I have no idea,” Adelman said when asked why his team was so sloppy. “I wish I did know. We worked hard defensively, we got the ball back, and we just threw it away like there’s no value in the ball. That’s how we were at the start of the year, and to me, it comes back to concentration. This game is not easy. It takes work. We were so casual tonight.”
The Mavericks, by contrast, seemed intent about winning the last of three meetings this season. The Wolves won the first meeting by 17, the second by 15 when Nowitzki didn’t play. But this time, Nowitzki ensured victory by shooting at will over the Wolves’ little guards when they tried to play a zone defense. He delivered his fifth consecutive 25-plus-points game one night after his All-Star selection proved to be something controversial.
“That’s the Dirk I know,” Love said. “That’s definitely vintage Dirk. He’s a Hall of Fame player when he decides he wants it. He’s an All-Star, even though he says he’s not. He showed tonight, he has been showing in the past week, too, why he deserves to be there.”