Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 2/13/12
There might not have been a worse time for the Timberwolves to try to snap out of their offensive lull than Monday night. Minnesota fell to the Magic, 102-89, their seventh loss in a row to Orlando, the latest in a losing streak that dates back to April 11, 2008. Since defeating the Magic 102-101 that day, the Timberwolves have been shut down by the Magic consistently, and they lost by 42 the last time they played in Orlando. With a young team, one that's had more success in the past month and a half than it had in all of last season, the Timberwolves had reason to believe that Monday night could be different. But coming off a three-game losing skid, its offense stagnating, the Timberwolves were powerless against the Magic's scoring. "We just kept on being aggressive on the offensive end and got some stops on the defensive end," Magic guard Jason Richardson said. "And we were finding each other, getting open shots." The Timberwolves, on the other hand, extended their scoring struggles. In the past five games, the team is averaging just 90 points, down from the 102.9 it averaged in the seven games before the steak. Its field goal percentage and 3-point percentage are also down, but not markedly, and turnovers have been the main culprit behind the team's offensive woes. After struggling with turnovers early, the team seemed to have turned things around, but in its past five games, it has averaged 20.2 turnovers. That alone, without any shooting problems, is enough to make wins hard to come by. "I think turnovers for our own game is certainly a real item," Adelman said before the game. "It's going to be hard to beat a team of this quality if we do that again." That prediction, at least, was spot-on. On 18 turnovers, the Timberwolves gave up 17 points. The Magic turned the ball over just nine times, for six points. So though Adelman, and probably Magic coach Stan Van Gundy as well, anticipated that turnovers could be a problem for the Timberwolves, Dwight Howard's offensive production was far from what the coaches might have predicted. Much was made of the matchup between Howard and Kevin Love, the top two rebounders in the league. Love finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds, in keeping with his typical numbers. Howard, though, got into early foul trouble and had just 11 points and seven rebounds, making Monday the second-worst offensive night of his season. The Timberwolves were unable to capitalize on Howard's downturn, though they can't shoulder all of the blame for that. The Magic had six players in double digits, including all five starters. Compare that to the Timberwolves, who had two starters with six or fewer points, and it's not difficult to see where the Magic had an edge. With the loss, the Timberwolves are now in the midst of their longest losing streak of the season, which rests at four games. They haven't won since they defeated Sacramento on Feb. 7, and they haven't scored 100 or more points since Feb. 4. It's not time to panic, but for a young team that's been known to get caught up in the emotion of both winning and losing, it's an opportunity to re-examine and strengthen its focus. "If you get into it, and you don't stay together, you don't trust each other, you get on those rolls and go the other way," Adelman said. "We don't want that to happen. So everybody in the locker room, from the coaches to the players, have to make up their mind they're not going to let it happen." Adelman's decades in the league give him a good perspective on the streak. It's not deadly. The team isn't doomed. But at the same time, the season is marching on -- "They're not going to stop the season because we've lost four in a row," the coach quipped -- and the players can't dwell on the slump. Instead, they need more than anything to get back to the fundamentals. When the Timberwolves failed over and over to reach .500, Love suggested that he and his teammates needed to simply put that goal out of their minds. They'd be smart to adopt a similar approach now, to simply forget about the losing streak and play each game without the context of the rest of the season or the urgency of a losing streak getting them down. "We keep talking to them about not giving in," Adelman said. "You can't give in. You can't let something keep going." So yes, the timing was bad. Facing a team that had already defeated them six times in a row was not where the Timberwolves would have hoped to find themselves on Monday night. But the schedule is an arbitrary thing, and just as often as it's an enemy, it can also work to a team's advantage. On Wednesday night, the Timberwolves return home to face the league-worst Charlotte Bobcats, who have won only three games. There's no such thing as a sure win, but the Timberwolves couldn't find themselves in a better position to reverse their fate. Follow Joan Niesen on Twitter.
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