By JON KRAWCZYNSKI,
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) While 35-year-old Steve Nash was running circles around players 15 years his junior on the court, the young Minnesota Timberwolves finally started to show signs that all this losing is getting to them.
Frowns of frustration and blank stares of disillusionment washed over them as they creep closer to a record that nobody on the team wants to accomplish. Like it or not, losing has become a way of life in Minnesota.
The Wolves lost their 15th consecutive game on Friday night when Jason Richardson scored 22 points to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 120-95 victory, Minnesota’s fifth loss of at least 23 points this season.
“Losing is like a form of depression. It wears on you and it drains energy out of you,” said rookie Jonny Flynn, who had 18 points and six assists. “You can see it all on your face. I think tonight it really started getting to us.”
Nash had nine points and 11 assists and Grant Hill had 17 points and five assists for the Suns, who have the best record in the NBA at 13-3.
Ramon Sessions had 23 points and Al Jefferson scored 20 for the Timberwolves (1-15), who are one loss away from tying the franchise record of 16 defeats in a row.
The Timberwolves gave a pair of black, thick-rimmed glasses to the first 5,000 fans at Target Center on Friday night in homage to the look new coach Kurt Rambis sported back in his playing days with the Lakers. The fashion faux pas became a symbol for grit and hustle in Tinseltown, endearing the raggedy Rambis to the image-conscious Lakers fans during their title runs of the Showtime era.
Rambis has been trying to instill the same kind of heart and passion into these young Timberwolves, but they have been far too inconsistent for most of this season.
The Wolves showed little fight on Friday night, shooting 36 percent against the defense-averse Suns in the first three quarters and falling behind by 32 points midway through the third.
“You have to develop this mindset that you just hate what we’re going through so much that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to not let this happen again,” Rambis said. “To not ever want to be in this situation again. If they get to a point where they’re just so disgusted with themselves as individuals and so disgusted with themselves as a team, that will help push them out of that environment where they feel sorry for themselves.”
Now the Wolves are looking at the past too, only not in a good way. The 1991-92 team set the franchise’s bar for futility with 16 straight losses, and the Wolves would tie that with a loss at division-leading Denver on Sunday.
Minnesota got Amare Stoudemire and Channing Frye in foul trouble in the first half but was unable to take advantage. Robin Lopez, playing in his first game of the season after having foot surgery in October, filled in with eight points and seven rebounds in 15 minutes.
Nash, who is averaging a career-high 11.8 assists in his 14th season, and the 37-year-old Hill got the Suns off and running early in this one. Nash threaded a pass through Ryan Hollins’ legs to a cutting Lopez for a layup in the first quarter and had Flynn dazed and confused while he tried to figure out Nash’s next move on the offensive end.
“Grant and I have been around the block a few times,” Nash said. “We want to be the leaders and use our experience to help the young guys gain confidence. It’s a fun group. We come in every day and we work hard, and we play together.”
The Suns prefer to race up and down the court and outgun their opponents. They took a detour from that philosophy during Shaquille O’Neal’s brief stay in the desert, but are right back to their high-octane ways now that O’Neal is hanging with LeBron James in Cleveland.
“There was too much thrown at us last year,” Nash said. “This year, we’ve started with a singular vision.”
Phoenix entered the night averaging a league-high 111.4 points and remain the only team to hit triple digits in every game this season. The Suns led by 10 after the first quarter, 21 after the second and 29 going into the final period.
“It seems like this is the 100th game in a row where we’re down big,” Flynn said. “It definitely gets to you.”
Notes: Rambis on fellow Santa Clara alum Steve Nash: “He’s the second-best player ever to come out of Santa Clara.” … As part of the Kurt Rambis Night festivities, the Wolves collected used pairs of reading glasses to be donated to disabled veterans. They collected more than 400 pairs. … Suns rookie Earl Clark had 14 points on 6 of 6 shooting off the bench.
Updated November 28, 2009
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