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Timberwolves routed by Suns

By Kent Youngblood, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –

MINNEAPOLIS — Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman had a message for his team before Monday’s game with Phoenix.

To summarize: There were precious few games left this season. The team needed to play hard every night. Especially on defense, where desire is more important than any diagram.

Was anybody listening?

The Suns, hot from start to finish, ran the Wolves off the court, 114-90. The Suns bench brought energy in abundance and scored with abandon, leading Phoenix to its sixth victory in seven games. The Wolves? It appears both the season and their energy is dwindling as they lost their sixth in a row.

“I just told them, ‘How do you want to finish the season?’” Adelman said. “That’s not good enough. They know it. But you’ve got to go out and do it. … We’ve got to respond.”

But is there enough energy left in the Wolves locker room to do that?

Monday, the Suns — the team guard Steve Nash has driven into the Western Conference playoff picture — shot 47-for-82, a 57.3 clip that represents the Suns’ best this season and the best by a Wolves opponent. The Wolves were able to stay fairly close through a quarter, thanks to nine Suns turnovers.

After that? Not so much. The Suns led by double figures for much of the third quarter before the Wolves pulled to within eight at half time.

But the Suns put it away in the third. The Wolves pulled within five 2½ minutes into the second half. But the Suns responded with a 21-4 run that pushed the lead to 22. The Wolves never got closer than 15 the rest of the way while suffering their most one-sided loss of the season.

Nash and the rest of the Suns starters sat for the final 12 minutes, contributing to the Suns’ 66-27 edge in bench scoring. Three of the five Suns players in double figures were reserves, led by Markieff Morris’ 21 points.

Defense? “It wasn’t there,” Adelman said.

“Just … a lot of letdowns,” said Kevin Love, who scored 25 points with 13 rebounds. “It’s hard to get out there and see there is no energy. We’ve put so much time and effort into the season, it’s tough, saddening to me, tough for the fans. We need to find a way, in these last games, to pick ourselves up.”

The Wolves weren’t much better on offense, hitting on 38.6 percent of their shots. But it was the lack of defense — the lack of defensive energy — that had the Wolves the most frustrated.

“They came with energy,” Adelman said of the Suns. “And we have to find it. Each one of us — coaches, players, everybody. The season is not over, and they have to understand that. I don’t know what else to say.”

How about this: It doesn’t get any easier. The Wolves will face a bevy of teams fighting for playoff position in the coming days; they get Denver, the Clippers and Oklahoma City to finish out just this week.

“It has to come from everybody,” Love said. “I feel like a few of us guys were out there fighting, and it needs to be all five guys on the floor. Most of the time it’s three or four. And when we’re not working as a unit, we’re not as solid as we once were. We’ve taken a dropoff.”

The Wolves have nine more games to find that energy before the season ends.

“It’s disturbing, and it hurts, to see us go out and not perform the way we did earlier in the season,” Martell Webster said. “Energy should not be a question with this team.”

Unfortunately, it has become a big question.

“We can’t go out like this,” Love said.

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