By Kent Youngblood, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –
MINNEAPOLIS — Wednesday’s question to come out of Target Center: Is it better to have come back and lost or never to have come back at all?
After a desultory three-plus quarters, the Wolves provided a near-dizzying finish. After 42 minutes of poor transition defense, a lack of finish at the rim, missed free throws and a sputtering offense, the Wolves found themselves down by 14 to the Charlotte Bobcats.
What followed was a comeback that came up just short.
Derrick Williams made one of two free throws with 12.3 seconds left to tie the score. But Charlotte’s Kemba Walker hit a 19-foot jumper with 0.7 seconds left that gave the Bobcats an 89-87 victory and their first three-game winning streak since the spring of 2011.
So, again, the question. Does getting close only make it harder?
“Tough loss,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “We needed to play the start of the game the way we played the fourth quarter.”
“That one stings,” said guard Luke Ridnour, who had 16 points and 10 assists.
“You feel like you got it, but in the end it slips through your fingers,” said forward Andrei Kirilenko, who had a game-high 26 points with 12 rebounds and two blocks. “It is very hard to play that kind of game.”
Especially when considering the Wolves (5-3), who lot for the first time at home, shot 38.3 percent, had 12 shots blocked and made only 20 of 37 free throws, including nine of 16 in the fourth quarter.
Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are a ways away from returning from injury. Center Nikola Pekovic (ankle), guard J.J. Barea (foot sprain) and guard Brandon Roy (right knee pain) were out of the Wednesday’s lineup, too.
And for three-plus quarters the Wolves played like a team that had finally lost the battle of attrition. They matched a season low while falling behind 51-38 at halftime. They were down 16 after three quarters and still trailed 85-71 with 4:22 left in the game when Walker hit a three-point shot.
And then the game turned about 175 degrees.
The Wolves went on a 10-0 run that included five points and a block by Kirilenko and three assists and a point from Ridnour.
Byron Mullens scored for Charlotte to make it a six-point lead. But Dante Cunningham scored from Ridnour, then Alexey Shved drove for two. Then Charlotte called a timeout when it didn’t have one, a technical. Ridnour made the free throw with 38.9 seconds left to make it a one-point game, and the Wolves got the ball.
But they couldn’t get over the hump. Shved made one of his five turnovers, but Ramon Sessions (18 points) missed two free throws. With 15.9 seconds left Shved missed from the baseline, but Tyrus Thomas stepped out of bounds after getting the rebound.
With 12.3 seconds Williams was fouled but made only one of two to tie the score.
The rest was rather painful, with Walker getting the final two of his 22 points with less than a second left.
The Wolves had 10 rebounds, seven blocks and assists on nine of 11 field goals in the fourth quarter. But late difficulties and missed free throws were the difference.
Adelman refused to use injuries as an excuse. “We have the ability to win games,” he said. “We have to find somebody who is going to make shots. If we play the right way offensively, swing the ball and you’re open, you’re going to have to knock it down. They have to go out with the confidence they can do the job, because we think they can.”