MEMPHIS, Tenn. — This season the Minnesota Timberwolves have done a lot of work easing the pain of the past.
Losing streaks to one team or another have fallen as the year went on. But one remained: Memphis.
And it’s still there.
Tuesday night’s 93-86 loss to the Grizzlies kicked off the Wolves’ two-game road trip on a sour note. But hardly an unfamiliar one. The Wolves have lost six in a row here and 12 of the past 15. And it all looked so familiar.
In recent losses in Memphis, the Wolves were beat up in the paint and allowed the Grizzlies way too many points off of turnovers.
Sound familiar? Tuesday the Grizzlies scored 21 points off Wolves turnovers, and Memphis again outscored the Wolves in the paint (46-38).
Combine that with some cold shooting when it mattered most and you have a must-win for the Wolves in Charlotte Wednesday.
Kevin Love led the Wolves with 28 points and 11 rebounds, Derrick Williams scored 14 points, but needed 15 shots to do it. Indeed, the Wolves shot 38.8 percent, were 9-for-29 on three-pointers and couldn’t buy a basket during key stretches of the second half.
All this happened after a third-quarter run that took the Wolves from six down to up eight, 63-55.
It was all downhill from there. From that point until 4½ minutes left, when Love hit a jumper, the Grizzlies outscored the Wolves 29-12.
Rudy Gay led four Grizzlies — who were playing without starting center Marc Gasol — with 21 points, Marreese Speights, had 18. Tony Allen and Dante Cunningham had 13 each.
The Wolves had one last push in them. Three-pointers by Love and Wayne Ellington drew the Wolves within five.
Down by a point entering the fourth quarter, the Wolves, who had been ice-cold in the final moments of the third, couldn’t warm up. The Grizzlies’ lead grew to three, then five, then seven when Speights — who played very well in place of the injured Gasol — scored in the post to make it 76-69.
The Wolves could never find their offensive rhythm.
The Wolves seemed to be bothered by the Grizzlies’ quickness early, with some quick turnovers getting the Grizzlies started. With Gay (10 first-quarter points) hot, Memphis used a 10-2 run to take control, and built an 18-13 lead. But two baskets by Martell Webster got the Wolves back in it, and Anthony Tolliver’s basket pulled the Wolves within 24-22 entering the second quarter.
With mainly reserves on the floor to start the second quarter, the Wolves held their own, pulling to within 35-34.
For a few moments it appeared the Wolves might let things slip away. Memphis went on a 9-2 run to take an eight-point lead. But Love hit two free throws, then a three-pointer — his first of the game — and the Wolves only trailed 44-41 at halftime.
The third quarter was a tale of two runs. First, the Wolves: Down 49-43, Wes Johnson’s jumper started a 15-4 run that ended with consecutive three-pointers by Ridnour and Love.
The Wolves pushed that lead to eight, 65-58 on Ridnour’s jumper. But then came Run. No. 2.
The Grizzlies ended the third quarter on an 11-1 run that included six points by Tony Allen. Memphis scored the final six points of the quarter to take a 68-67 lead on Zach Randolph’s put-back.