76ers come back but still fall to Timberwolves

The 76ers' Jeremy Pargo (right) runs into Minnesota's Ricky Rubio. Pargo was called for the foul. JIM MONE / AP
The 76ers' Jeremy Pargo (right) runs into Minnesota's Ricky Rubio. Pargo was called for the foul. JIM MONE / AP
Posted: February 22, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS - The 76ers brought one of their glaring problems from the first half of the season with them into the second.

Too often before the all-star break, the Sixers began games as if they were sleepwalking, rallied, and then simply could not close the deal when it counted.

That was the template they followed against a lowly Minnesota team in a 94-87 loss Wednesday night at the Target Center.

The Sixers, playing with a lethargy that has been their trademark this season, fell behind by 19 points and never recovered.

A team that still talks about being in the playoffs lost to a Timberwolves squad that makes no pretense about being headed to the draft lottery.

"We played terribly," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "I don't know what else to say. It was terrible. No energy. No life - at all. It was terrible. I mean, I can't candy-coat it any more than that.

"The only thing we did in the second half is compete," Collins added. "But we didn't play well. We just played harder."

The loss extended the Sixers' road losing streak to seven games. They have not won away from the Wells Fargo Center since New Year's Day, when they beat the dysfunctional Los Angeles Lakers.

The Sixers fell 31/2 games behind Milwaukee, the eighth-seeded team in the Eastern Conference.

The Sixers never led. They fell behind by allowing the Timberwolves to score 35 points in the first quarter, matching the most points they've allowed in the first period of any game this season.

Bruising center Nikola Pekovic led Minnesota with 27 points and 18 rebounds. Andrei Kirilenko added 15 points.

"He's a monster," Collins said of Pekovic, who helped the Timberwolves manhandle the Sixers on the boards, 44-32.

Evan Turner led the Sixers with 17 points. They rallied late, getting as close as 89-85 late in the fourth quarter. However, they would get no closer.

The Sixers also got a season-high 13 points from Damien Wilkins.

The win was just the fourth in the last 20 games for Minnesota (20-31).

"They got it going early on, right from the start," said Sixers center Spencer Hawes, who was benched at the start of the second half in favor of Kwame Brown. Hawes finished with nine points and eight rebounds.

"We can't afford to have slow stretches anymore," Hawes said. "Everything counts now. If we are going to get back into this thing, we can't have stretches like that at the start of the game, middle of the game, any part."

Contact John N. Mitchell at jmitchell@philly.com, or follow on Twitter @JmitchInquirer.

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