CLEVELAND – The Timberwolves went forth Monday missing power forwards Kevin Garnett and Adreian Payne, along with veteran guard Kevin Martin, against Cleveland and its new coach.
The Wolves assigned Payne to the Erie, Pa., team in the NBA D League on Monday and sat Garnett because of a sore knee that limited him to nine first-half minutes in Saturday’s home victory over Memphis. Martin was a late scratch; he aggravated a sore right wrist.
Like rookie Tyus Jones to Idaho before him this season, Payne is headed to the D League “just to get minutes to play,” Wolves interim head coach Sam Mitchell said. The Erie team plays five games in 10 days starting Wednesday.
Mitchell on Monday called Garnett’s sore knee a day-to-day situation, but said Sunday he could miss a week or two.
“People are starting to realize he’s old,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell started Nikola Pekovic and Karl-Anthony Towns Monday against a Cavaliers team that with new coach Tyronn Lue — hired Friday to replace abruptly fired David Blatt — replaced 7-1 Timofey Mozgov with power forward Tristan Thompson in a small lineup that was still big.
All about the ‘W’
After averaging 31.6 points the first three times he played the team that drafted and traded him before he ever played a game there, Wolves forward Andrew Wiggins scored 20 on Monday against his former Cavs team.
Before the game, Lue said holding down Wiggins wasn’t his team’s priority.
“It’s about the win,” Lue said. “I don’t want to overexaggerate our defense and double-team and trap him and open it up for everybody else. He has gone for 30 and 35 on us, but we still came out with the victory. So that’s most important.”
Wiggins’ scoring average in his first three games against Cleveland tells you Cavs-Wolves is not just another game to him. Kevin Love hasn’t put up such numbers, but he says that that it, too, is not just another night, at least not yet.
“I think it will take a little bit for it to become just another game because it’s relatively fresh,” Love said, referring to the August 2014 trade that swapped him for Wiggins in a bigger deal.
• With Garnett out and Payne absent, there still has been no increase in playing time for Pekovic as he returns from April surgery on his Achilles’ tendon. He played 13 minutes Monday.
• Pekovic, Martin, Ricky Rubio, Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng remain from Love’s last season in Minnesota.
“I see a lot of guys that are still my friends, guys I’ve always consider me teammates over there,” Love said.
• Monday’s game was televised live nationally Tuesday down under on Australian Day. Cavs guard Matthew Dellavedova is from there.