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Short-handed Timberwolves handle Cavaliers

The SportsXchange

CLEVELAND -- The Cavaliers' defense was so putrid, coach Byron Scott didn't know what to call it.

The short-handed Minnesota Timberwolves were playing without five injured players, including All-Star power forward Kevin Love and valuable forward Andrei Kirilenko. They came into the game having lost four in a row, 10 of their last 11 and 15 of their last 17. Included in all that carnage was an eight-game losing streak on the road.

Yet they came into Quicken Loans Arena on Monday night and dismantled the Cavs 100-92 before an announced crowd of 11,556.

"I have no answers," Scott said. "I don't know if it was the worst loss of the year, but it wasn't pretty."

The T-Wolves (19-30) shot 63.6 percent from the field in the second half, 75 percent in the fourth quarter.

"It was terrible," Scott said. "I wouldn't even call it defense."

The Cavs also committed 20 turnovers.

"It was careless (ball-handling)," Scott said. "The spacing was bad. We had some old, bad habits. We looked at them and said it should be an easy win and I'm going to get mine."

Scott warned the players at the shootaround and again before the game that this was setting up exactly like the Golden State game on Jan. 29. The Warriors were missing three starters and one key reserve player yet still ripped the Cavs 108-95.

"They haven't learned," Scott said. "That's obvious. They haven't learned."

The T-Wolves were also playing without Brandon Roy, Malcolm Lee and Chase Budinger.

It was quite an embarrassment for the Cavs (16-36), who had won three of their last four games.

The T-Wolves took a seven-point advantage 72-65, entering the fourth quarter. They came out and connected on 10 of their first 11 shots in the fourth quarter.

It was guard Luke Ridnour who looked like an All-Star. The 6-foot-2 guard had 13 of his game-high 21 points in the pivotal fourth quarter.

"This was a good win for us, to be able to come in here and get a win," Ridnour said. "It's been a while since we're won, especially on the road (Jan. 3 at Denver)."

All five starters scored in double figures for Minnesota. Bruising center Nikola Pekovic had 16 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, and guard Ricky Rubio added 13 points, a game-high 10 assists and five steals.

The Cavs' defense has been problematic all season. They rank near the bottom in almost every major category, including opponents' field-goal percentage. The T-Wolves shot 52 percent from the field and 57 percent from behind the arc.

"Games are a lot easier when you can make shots," T-Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "I found that out. We made 3s. We made shots. We got the ball to Pekovic. We had a nice balance to the game."

The losses were mounting for the T-Wolves.

"We're competitors and we want to win games," Ridnour said. "Losing, as much as you don't want to say it, takes a toll on you."

Cavs All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving had 20 points, four rebounds and seven assists. He was 9 of 20 from the field.

He sprained his left ankle with just seconds left in the second quarter and was taken to the locker room. He returned for the second half and didn't appear to have any problems. He wasn't available to the media after the game, but a spokesman said the ankle wasn't an issue.

A spokesman opened the door to the trainer's room to show the All-Star getting treatment.

Cavs power forward Tristan Thompson had 16 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, and guard Dion Waiters converted 6 of 6 shots from the field en route to 12 points and six turnovers in 21 minutes.

Scott said he was boiling hot after the game but kept it inside when addressing the players.

"I just didn't want to blow up, to be honest with you," he said. "The only thing I said to them was, 'I'm baffled.' I really am. We had a little adversity and we scattered. We went our separate ways when it got tough. We can't do that."

NOTES: Cavs center Tyler Zeller has reached double figures in scoring just once in his previous 10 games. He didn't make a field goal on Monday in 25 minutes. He hasn't had 10 or more rebounds in any of his previous seven games. His trusty 15-foot jumper has also abandoned him. Scott isn't worried. "Most rookies have to go through this," he said. "All these things will make him a better basketball player." ... Scott said he challenged Irving to a 3-point shootout after practice on Tuesday at Cleveland Clinic Courts. Irving has been invited to the Three-Point Contest during All-Star weekend in Houston. Scott competed in the event twice - a last-place finish in 1987 and a third-place performance in '88. "I challenged him today," Scott said. "He's talking a lot. I think I have a good shot at (beating him)." Irving said he read where Scott challenged him. "That's something a third-place winner would do, go behind my back and challenge me," he said. ... Cavs forward Alonzo Gee scored 15 points in the first six minutes of the Denver game on Saturday. The last Cavs player to do that was Lamond Murray against the Lakers on Jan. 12, 2001. ... Adelman said he hopes to get forward Andrei Kirilenko (strained right quadriceps) back after the All-Star break. "It's not just people," Adelman said. "It's the quality of the people. There are a lot of points sitting on the bench." The losing is starting to wear on the Timberwolves. "They are definitely feeling it," Adelman said. "When you go through a series of things we've gone through, it wears on you. They are human. This league doesn't do you any favors."
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