Things were supposed to be easier for the Minnesota Timberwolves with the return of Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. But with Love trying to find his shot and Rubio still playing limited minutes, the team is struggling.
A home game Saturday night against the sputtering Phoenix Suns would seem to be a good chance to get back on track, but the Timberwolves have lost 10 of 11 in the series and the last six played in Minneapolis.
Minnesota (13-13) has lost four of five and badly needs Love to right himself. Love, who missed the season's first nine games with a broken right hand, actually shot better from 3-point range last season (37.2) than he is currently shooting from the field (35.5). He is also hitting only 22.5 percent of his shots from long distance this year.
The two-time All-Star played one of his worst games Wednesday as Minnesota suffered an 87-84 home loss to Houston. Love scored seven points on 3-of-14 shooting, missed all seven shots from beyond the arc and matched a season worst with five turnovers. It was the fourth time in six games he shot less than 30.0 percent.
"It's just something he's going to work through and play through," coach Rick Adelman told the team's official website. "You know, he's really important in the way we play. He's making shots that open things up for everybody, especially (Nikola Pekovic) inside, so it's just something he's got to work through."
Love isn't too concerned with his cold spell.
"People are meant to get out of slumps," he said.
Wednesday's game also marked the sixth time the Timberwolves have lost a contest in which they led entering the fourth quarter. They led by as many as 14 in the third but shot 35.3 percent in the final frame while committing five turnovers. Love hasn't helped matters in fourth quarters, averaging 3.4 points and shooting 30.4 percent.
"I think every game we've played, we've been in, and we've had a chance," Adelman said. "But we have to learn how to finish games some time."
Rubio has played in five games since returning from a torn ACL suffered last season and is averaging 4.2 points and 4.0 assists in 18 minutes as he re-adjusts. Adelman said he is currently limited to 24 minutes a game.
The Suns (11-19) have lost four in a row and seven straight road games with Friday's 97-91 setback at Indiana. Phoenix's already middle-of-the-road offense (97.1 ppg) has struggled of late, averaging 89.5 points and hitting 25.4 percent of its 3-point shots during the losing streak. It is also dealing with its own fourth-quarter issues, averaging 19.0 in the final period.
"It's becoming a similar theme every night," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "We start out great and then we get down and we have to fight all the way back."
Point guard Goran Dragic - leading the team in scoring (14.1) and assists (6.2) - is questionable after sitting out Friday with a bruised hip, back and wrist he sustained Wednesday against New York. Sebastian Telfair started in his place, scoring a season-high 19 points with six assists.
Saturday will mark forward Michael Beasley's first game against his former team after Minnesota declined to make him a qualifying offer in the offseason. He averaged a career-high 19.2 points for the Timberwolves two years ago but flamed out last season, playing a career-worst 23.1 minutes.
Beasley's tenure with Phoenix hasn't started much better, as he's averaging career lows in points (10.5), rebounds (3.7) and shooting percentage (37.8).