Timberwolves show their age in late meltdown against Bobcats
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- This is probably a good time to bring up two significant statistics about the Timberwolves. They are the NBA's youngest team with an average age of 24.2. And they rank second to Memphis with an average of 2.7 years NBA experien...
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- This is probably a good time to bring up two significant statistics about the Timberwolves. They are the NBA's youngest team with an average age of 24.2. And they rank second to Memphis with an average of 2.7 years NBA experience per player.
The Wolves' youth became a major issue Monday night against Charlotte at Time Warner Cable Arena when they blew a six-point lead with 1 minute, 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Four minutes earlier, the Wolves led by nine.
Among the mistakes were an ill-advised three-point shot by Kevin Love and two crunch-time turnovers by Michael Beasley. The Wolves' two pivotal players owned up to mistakes after Charlotte's 113-110 victory -- miscues that cost the Wolves a potential victory but reminded everyone that rebuilding is a long-term process.
"In games like this, we showed our youth a little bit," Love said. "It's so painful. We had them right where we wanted them. We played a little fast. I rushed that three-pointer with about 13 or 14 seconds left on the (shot) clock."
Beasley took the frustrating analysis one step further.
"I feel like it was my fault," Beasley said. "I got a little anxious, and I lost the ball. I don't feel good at all, especially when my turnovers changed the game."
The Wolves (3-9) took the loss so hard that point guard Sebastian Telfair, 25, said he felt like crying. Telfair held back the tears, but it was obvious that Wolves players were stung by the defeat.
In light of the youthful roster Wolves coach Kurt Rambis is dealing with, it might take the team a few trial runs to close out winnable games on the road.
"You can't speed up the process," Rambis said. "The guys just have to go through the pain and suffering of making mistakes and gaining the experience, so that they get to a comfort level and a poise that they can play with."
Youth and inexperience didn't seem much of a factor when the Wolves built a late lead. Charlotte was in trouble after Beasley, who led the Wolves with a game-high 28 points, hit a floating jumper to give the Wolves a 99-90 lead with 5:09 left in the fourth quarter.
Charlotte owner Michael Jordan, sitting behind the Bobcats' bench, leaned back and put his hands on his head in apparent disbelief at what he was seeing. Beasley later hit two free throws to put the Wolves up 108-102 with 92 seconds remaining.
That's when things changed, and the Wolves didn't have enough experience to stop the Bobcats' rally. Back-to-back three-pointers by D.J. Augustin and Stephen Jackson started the Bobcats' comeback. Love helped the Bobcats by missing his hurried three-pointer with 1:06 left, leading to a pair of free throws by Gerald Wallace that cut the Wolves' lead to one.
There was still an opportunity, two in fact, for the Wolves to wrap things up, and they put the ball in Beasley's hands both times. On one possession, Beasley dribbled into traffic and was stripped by Augustin. Beasley lost the ball again with 20 seconds left when he appeared to be unsure of his destination as he dribbled to find space in the Bobcats' defense -- space that wasn't there.
"You have to remember that Michael is 21 and I'm 22," Love said. "He's been our leading scorer the last four or five games. He's been hot, but he made a couple of mistakes. Everybody does. We'll just have to learn from this."
One more youthful moment surfaced before the final buzzer. Rookie Wesley Johnson was fouled on an inbounds play with 3.5 seconds left and the Wolves trailing 112-110. Two free throws by the No. 4 overall pick in the 2010 draft would have tied the score. A nervous Johnson missed the first shot, forcing him to throw the second attempt off the rim in hopes of a dramatic tip-in. It didn't work.
"It wasn't Wes' fault we lost," Love said. "We beat ourselves. That was a tough situation to put the 'rook' in this early in his career. I'm sure the next time he's in that situation he'll make them."
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.