Patrick Reusse: Even for an Ultimate Fighter, this was tough to watch

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 22, 2008 - 12:49 AM

Brock Lesnar is used to pummeling opponents to oblivion, but even he was cringing as Kevin Garnett put a sleeper hold on his former team after halftime.

Asked Friday night if his former team had a future, ex-Wolves star Kevin Garnett didn’t have much to say, responding: “Next question.”

Photo: Jennifer Simonson, Star Tribune

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Brock Lesnar was in attendance on Friday night when the Timberwolves played host to the NBA champion Boston Celtics for the only time in the 2008-09 season.

Lesnar was a legend both as a collegiate wrestler with the Gophers and in the pro rasslin' ranks. Recently, he became the heavyweight champion of Ultimate Fighting.

This activity is conducted inside a caged octagon, with a contestant encouraged to throw an opponent on his back and then turn his face into pulp with rapid-fire punches.

So, that's why Lesnar was seen wincing and turning his head away from the action in Friday's third quarter.

Clearly, in all his hellacious battles with heavyweights from Iowa and Oklahoma State, and in all the blood baths choreographed by Vince McMahon, and even in his short time inside The Octagon, Lesnar had never been exposed to the gore, to the carnage, that took place as those 12 minutes crawled off the Target Center's scoreboard clock.

This was the first time Kevin Garnett, the Timberwolves' only superstar during his 12 seasons in Minneapolis, was back to actually play in a game.

Garnett was the first starter introduced. The audience attempted a standing ovation, but the momentum was lost when another Celtic was introduced quickly.

The fans settled back into a stupor that was matched by both teams in the first half. The Wolves led the champs 39-36 at halftime, and very few people in the announced crowd of 19,107 reacted as if this was significant as the teams left the court.

The customers who chose to remain skeptical proved correct.

The Celtics' advantage in the third period was 35-10. The Wolves made two of 17 field goals for 11.8 percent. They didn't have an assist or blocked shot and were outrebounded 13-6.

"Oh, the humanity!" Big Brock was alleged to bellow as the quarter came to a close with Rajon Rondo's buzzer-beating three-pointer.

Garnett was in the vicinity, flashed one of those classic KG smiles when Rondo's shot fell and then threw a low fist pump.

It was mentioned to Garnett that the excited toss of the fist went through the air perhaps 3 feet from where Wolves owner Glen Taylor was occupying his midcourt seat.

"I didn't know that, but who cares?" Garnett said.

He played 11 minutes in the third quarter and it could serve as an instructional tape titled "The KG Way to Play Basketball." He scored, kept balls alive off the backboard for teammates, made passes, set screens and played magnificent defense.

Rookie Kevin Love entered with 6 1/2 minutes remaining in the third quarter. Celtics coach Doc Rivers showed a bit of a sadistic streak and had Garnett spend some of that time guarding Love.

The poor kid was giving away 5 inches, plus jumping ability, plus quickness. This left him a foot low and two steps slow on both halves of the court.

"KG did it all in the third quarter -- set up a lot of what we did on offense, made defensive plays," Rivers said. "He was great in the third. I was happy for him. First time back, he wanted to put on a show."

Garnett met with a mob of Minnesota reporters 35 minutes after the game. Asked about finally getting a chance to play back in Target Center, he said:

"It's always good to go somewhere and feel the love in the building. It's even better to win in the place I used to play."

Garnett said the Celtics are a "work in progress" on offense. He cited the same commitment to defense that carried Boston last season for this 12-2 start.

"In the first half, I thought we played to their level," Garnett said. "... I thought in the second half we got back to Celtic basketball and doing the things that we know how to do. Also, we were a lot more in tune defensively."

A veteran reporter tried to coax a hometown platitude out of KG by asking, "Does this team have a future?"

Garnett: "What team?"

Platitude seeker: "The Wolves."

To which Garnett answered, "Next question."

No backslaps for the Wolves from KG -- only a third-period slapping around that had to make a UFC champion cringe.

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. • preusse@startribune.com

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