Jerry Zgoda missed the entire Kevin Garnett era, but he's back covering the Timberwolves after working the beat for their first four seasons two decades ago. In between, he covered a bit of everything: Gopher men's and women's basketball and NCAA athletics, golf, outdoor recreation, sports media and a little Vikings and Twins.
You want the good news or the bad news first?
Let's go bad news:
Nikola Pekovic will not play for the Wolves tonight against Sacramento because of that hurting right ankle/foot that caused him to leave Friday's game at Charlotte early in the third quarter.
He said before tonight's game that it remained too painful to really test it out Saturday or Sunday and he is hopeful two consecutive days off before the Wolves play again on Wednesday at Dallas will allow it to settle down.
Rick Adelman said rookie Gorgui Dieng will start in Pekovic's place against Kings star center DeMarcus Cousins before we learned the good news for the Wolves...
Cousins is out too, sidelined for this final game of the Kings' long seven-game road trip by right knee tendinitis.
The Wolves would have gone small with Dante Cunningham in the starting lineup instead if the Kings started Jason Thompson at "center" but Sacramento instead will go with 7-foot Aaron Gray, which means Dieng will indeed get his first NBA start.
Before the Wolves boarded their charter to Charlotte, they spent much of Thursday’s practice working on their defense, in two particular areas. First, their post defense against Bobcats center Al Jefferson, and their pick-and-roll defense against Bobcats guard Kemba Walker.
Jefferson, in particular, has really had it rolling lately.
“Everyone knows what he’s capable of,” Kevin Love said. “People ask me who is the toughest guy to go against, when it comes to the post. It’s Al."
Jefferson is the only Eastern Conference player averaging better than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. He and Walker have the Bobcats playing pretty well right now, having won four of five games. The team is currently in the playoff picture out East.
“He has played great the last three weeks,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said of Jefferson. They made the trade – getting Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal in trade Feb. 20 – they added a couple shooters. They’re a better all-around team.’’
Here are some other items from today’s practice:
--Look for Adelman to try to find more time for Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea to play together going forward. After spending much of the season trying to find a rotation he can stick with, Adleman sounded Thursday like he was going to try to tighten it up a bit.
--Center Ronny Turiaf, out since Feb. 19 with a bone bruise in his right knee, did some things on the court today. Adelman said he hopes Turiaf’s return was near. Turiaf, talking briefly with the press, said he still felt pain in the knee when he bends the knee and that the knee was quite tender. “It’s been very frustrating,” he said.
--Adelman said center Nikola Pekovic’s ongoing minutes limitation might be easing soon. And the team needs it, with some nice centers on the upcoming schedule.
That’s about it for now. Jerry will be with the team in Charlotte.
Well, the Wolves took a while to take care of this game tonight. A loss to the Bucks would have been disastrous. As it is, all the Wolves did by winning was keep pace with Memphis in the Western Conference.
Here are a few reactions to the game:
--On a night when he said his body wasn’t feeling very good, Kevin Love gutted out a 27-point, 10-rebound performance. He also had six assists. And this from a guy who had just nine points and four rebounds at halftime.
--Kevin Martin also shook off a slow start – he was 5-for-13 in the first half – to score 26 points. Twelve of those came in the third quarter, when the Wolves took back control of the game.
--After a stretch of games in which J.J. Barea really struggled, I think he was the most important person in a Wolves uniform tonight. Where would Minnesota have been at halftime if he hadn’t scored 17 points in the first two quarters? Not within six, I can tell you that.
--Ricky Rubio continued his recent efficient play, scoring 11 points on 3-for-4 shooting to go with 10 assists. It was his 10th double-double of the season.
--Minnesota native Nate Wolters had a big group in the stands tonight. And he responded by scoring 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting with three assists for the Bucks.
That’s about all for now. Jerry will be in charge tomorrow.
The Milwaukee Bucks might be a little tired tonight, playing on the back end of back-to-back games. But they should be confident.
Monday in Milwaukee the Bucks overcame an 18-point first-half deficit to beat Orlando. It was their biggest comeback of the season and it ended a three-game losing streak.
Here are some items from today’s morning shoot:
--Nate Wolters will play his first pro regular season game in Minnesota tonight. Wolters, the former St. Cloud Tech and South Dakota State star, is starting at guard for the Bucks. He was a second-round draft pick by Washington last summer. But, in two separate draft-day trades, Wolters found himself going to Philadelphia, and then to Milwaukee. He is averaging 7.0 points on 42.7 percent shooting for the Bucks. He will be talking with the media prior to tonight’s game, so I’ll have more in tomorrow’s paper.
--Luc Mbah a Moute’s own personal fan club will finally get to see him play tonight. A group of 12 kids ranging in age from 15 to 18 from Basket-Club Nyonsais – a club located near Avignon in the south of France – will be at Target Center tonight.
A friend of Mbah a Moute’s played for the club when he was younger, and he told them about Mbah a Moute. They quickly started following his career and decided to raise some money to come to the United States to watch him play.
That’s when the problems started. They held fundraisers, then bought tickets for a trip to watch Mbah a Moute play in Milwaukee last season. But Mbah a Moute was traded to Sacramento before the trip happened. So the group decided to switch their tickets to watch Mbah a Moute play for the Kings against Brooklyn on Sunday. Problem is, Mbah a Moute was traded again, this time to the Wolves.
Ultimately, the club decided to go through with the trip, which also included watching the Kings play in Philadelphia Wednesday.
But Mbah a Moute made sure they got to see him, too. He paid for tickets to bring the group from New York to Minnesota for tonight's game, then get them to Phiadelphia in time to watch Wednesday's game. He dined with them on Monday night, and they will meet him pre- and post-game.
“I thought it was amazing,” Mbah a Moute said of the club. “I just can’t imagine kids actually coming and doing something like that for someone they don’t know, to just come out and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to watch him play.’ That says a lot about their support and shows me a lot of gratitude. So I think it’s pretty special for me.”
--Kevin Love on breaking the team’s single-season record for three-pointers made, something he did against Toronto Sunday: “I didn’t really know,” he said. “When it popped up on the Jumbotron up there, I didn’t really realize it had happened. It’s cool to be in the Wolves history books like that. Hopefully I can keep getting that number up there to help the team, and also put it out of reach for a few more years.
That’s about all for now. I’ll get back to you tonight.
Toronto makes its only Target Center visit this season tongiht and will be without reserve forward Patrick Patterson, who is a late scratch because of a sprained elbow.
Patterson re-aggravated an elbow he had hurt in the past week during Friday's home victory over Sacramento.
His absence will hurt the Raptors' depth -- which has been the foundation of their 27-13 turnaround since they traded star Rudy Gay to the Kings in December for Patterson and three other bench players -- as well as take away a key defender they intended to use on Kevin Love.
Without him, the Raptors will have to rely on veterans Chuck Hayes (one of those four players acquired in the trade), Steve Novak and Tyler Hansbrough.
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