Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 2/2/12
MINNEAPOLIS If Bill Murray were the Timberwolves' backup point guard, this would all make more sense. How appropriate that Thursday is Feb. 2, Groundhog Day, the miserable day that Murray repeated over and over in the 1993 movie. It's also a day the Timberwolves have repeated too many times this year, not as precisely as did Murray, but just as painfully. The Timberwolves woke up Thursday morning in the same way they did on Jan. 5. And Jan. 22. And Jan. 30. They woke up having been rebuffed by .500, having the night before been just one win away. That record has become the unattainable goal for this year's Timberwolves, and each time they fail to meet it the aftermath becomes that much more difficult. They've been talking about .500 for more than three weeks, staring down that record as a realistic goal for the first time in years. But with every near miss, .500 has ballooned in players' minds, to the point where they're almost superstitious about it. Wednesday morning, forward Kevin Love told the media that they jinxed him, that every time the team has been on the brink of .500 and he's spoken publicly, they've failed to get a win. It's questionable logic, but Love's fears were realized hours later. However, after Wednesday night's 109-99 loss to the Pacers, the team's attitude about reaching that .500 record seemed different, more tempered and perhaps less manic. For the first time, players seemed to realize that focusing on a number might not be the best way to go about winning. "We can't get over the hump on .500, that's for sure," Love said. "We have a stretch of games here where we just need to block that out, forget about our record and just go out there and win." Love, who's in his fourth season with the Timberwolves, is one of the team's longest-tenured players, and consequently he's one of the most impatient. He's tired of losing, tired of feeling like Minnesota can't live up to its potential. Teammate Martell Webster, who joined the Timberwolves before last year's 17-win season, echoed Love's sentiments. "The sense of urgency has to step up tremendously for us to even be mentioned as a contender," Webster said. "Right now it's a little bit easier to deal with when you know that you're losing the games this close, but you've got to figure out a way to battle through and overcome that. I think that once we do that, then all the rumors of the potential of this team will all be reality." Webster, one of the more vocal players on both the court and the bench, said Wednesday night that the hoped all his teammates felt as badly as he did after the loss that they can't keep regrouping in the locker room after games, thinking they've almost achieved their goal. That's repetitive, he said, and the team needs to learn to fight as one for what it wants. That inability to attack as a team was the Timberwolves' biggest weakness against Indiana. Coach Rick Adelman said his players reverted back to a one-dimensional offense often just one pass, and then a shot and in doing so erased any chance to win, or even to score effectively. "You've got to play as a group together," Adelman said. "You can't play individually, and you can't try to do it all yourself. You've got to play as a group, at both ends of the court." Going forward, the Timberwolves will have to learn to play with success. Adelman has said over and over this season that winning two or three games means nothing. "We haven't won anything yet," has become his mantra, and it's true. But in order to grasp that concept, this young team will need to learn to use memory to its advantage. Instead of focusing on .500, it needs to forget about its record and channel all its attention into the fundamentals basketball. "Screw everything else, (we need to) go out there and play basketball like we know how to," Love said. "We need to stop having lapses when the games really count for us." But at the same time, there are things to be remembered, mental notes to take. Nikola Pekovic, who said he felt his team has given up each time it's been just a game away from .500, added that his team needs to learn to take the best from every game. It can't forget the losses and when they sting like Wednesday's, it's not easy to but the team needs to take the good from each game and carry it forward to the next. After so many comeback wins and erased deficits, the Timberwolves have learned to play from behind, and they've come to equate that notion of fighting back with success. Having to claw their way into a game is hardly success, though, and Webster said that his team must realize that success means energy and holding a lead throughout a game. Instead of relying only on physical talent, the Timberwolves need to take full advantage of everything they can bring to the basketball court. "Being a young team and being so, so, so talented as far as individually we kind of take for granted the fact that we can still use our brains, like see how defenses are playing you and then reacting instead of us going out there and going to our go-to moves," Webster said. So forget records; stop dwelling on wins and losses. This team needs to abandon the numbers and remember the moments. But most of all, the Timberwolves must remember that they're in control of their own destiny. These games aren't scripted, and this season isn't a movie. Feb. 3 will follow Feb. 2, and this team doesn't have to wake up ever again with that feeling of success falling farther out of reach. Follow Joan Niesen on Twitter.
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