With a month to go in the season, the Minnesota Timberwolves have a shot at recording their first winning record in nine years. However, the NBA's longest active playoff drought will likely continue, largely thanks to poor defense and not enough scoring support behind Kevin Love.
Hosting the struggling Sacramento Kings on Sunday night might grant them a temporary reprieve from those issues.
Minnesota (32-32), which has won eight of 12 games, needs to win 10 of its final 18 contests for the franchise's first winning record since 2005. However, the Timberwolves appear likely to miss out on the postseason for the 10th straight year, barring a total collapse by a team in front of them. Memphis owns a six-game edge for eighth place in the Western Conference and has won 12 of 16. Phoenix is also 4 1/2 games in front of Minnesota.
Though the Timberwolves are still mathematically alive, Friday's 105-93 loss at Charlotte may have taken away any real chance they have. After scoring 18 in the first half, Love was smothered and was 0 for 7 in the second half, marking the third scoreless half of his career with at least five field-goal attempts.
Minnesota is 4-14 when he scores 20 or fewer points or doesn't play at all.
"I was particularly tired and it was just a tough game from the start," said Love, who had played 40-plus minutes in each of his previous two contests.
Love's 36.5 minutes per game are tied with Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge for the most among power forwards.
The Timberwolves have also rarely been able to build traction this season, winning no more than three games in a row. A big part of that inconsistency has been due to the defense, which is allowing 110.7 points per game on 49.0 percent shooting during the team's 3-3 stretch.
Coach Rick Adelman's club was outscored 32-20 in the second quarter on Friday.
"The start of the second quarter just killed us," Adelman said. ''They didn't miss many shots. I thought defense was our problem."
Luckily for the Timberwolves, they'll face a Kings squad that has lost four of five while averaging 93.4 points on 41.7 percent shooting. Minnesota took a 108-97 victory at Sacramento on March 1 and got 22 from Love, who was just 4 of 12 from the field but hit 12 of 14 free throws.
The Kings (23-43) will be wrapping up a seven-game trip after taking a 94-87 loss to Chicago on Saturday. DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas combined for 51 points and made 17 of 39 shots, but their teammates totaled only 36 points on 14-of-46 shooting.
Sacramento was also 23 of 37 from the free throw line and is shooting 65.7 percent from the charity stripe in its last five games after previously shooting 77.8 percent on the season.
"That's a lot of points to be left on the court," coach Michael Malone said.
Minnesota could be without Nikola Pekovic, who left in the third quarter Friday with a sore right ankle. He missed 13 contests from Jan. 29-Feb. 25 with an ankle injury. The front line is already stretched thin with Ronny Turiaf sidelined by a bone bruise in his knee.
Rudy Gay is averaging 27.8 points over his last four matchups with Minnesota while going 10 of 18 from 3-point range.