MEMPHIS – It says something about this endless Timberwolves season that they left Memphis on Monday night bound for home after they got thumped 92-77 by the Grizzlies and Ricky Rubio came up hopping in pain and ... the faithful folks still watching this game and this season on television back home probably were thankful that it wasn't any worse.
Or that is really wasn't anything at all.
Rubio didn't play the game's final 15½ minutes after he came limping to the bench with what appeared to be an injured groin and then afterward said he wasn't injured at all.
"I don't know what it is," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said afterward. "I didn't ask."
He knows better after a season like this.
Rubio went to the locker room after he grimaced when he stopped to pass while pushing the ball up the floor. He returned to the bench at the start of the fourth quarter after running in the arena corridors to test his body and said afterward he was ready to play.
"I'm good," he said.
When asked what he injured and if it was his groin, he said, "No, nothing, nothing at all. No, I'm good."
He didn't play again because at that point the Wolves were about to trail by 25 points on a night when they lost their 10th consecutive game to the Grizzlies, the home team's longest winning streak against an opponent in franchise history.
"He said he could have played, but I wasn't going to put him back in there," Adelman said. "It wasn't worth it."
By then, the night's outcome had long been decided after the Grizzlies outscored the Wolves 42-15 from midway through the second quarter until late in the third on a night when the Wolves ended the third set in four pair of back-to-back games over a 13-day stretch.
"I did think we ran out of gas," Adelman said. "At the start of the third quarter it was like we had nothing left. They are a very good team and took advantage of it."
The last time these teams played, the Grizzlies were still in shock that management had traded star forward Rudy Gay away to Toronto in what appeared to be a cost-cutting move that even seemed to baffle NBA Commissioner David Stern.
More than a month later, the Wolves returned to FedEx Forum and found the Grizzlies have adjusted just fine — and then some — to a big trade that brought veteran defender Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye from Detroit and Ed Davis from the Raptors while sending away Gay's mammoth contract.
Prince (12 points, 14 rebounds) and Zach Randolph (14 points, 10 rebounds) each delivered a double-double and Mike Conley scored 20 points Monday for a Memphis team that in its first game back after a four-game Western trip won for the 15th time in its last 18 games.
Second time around
Wolves center Nikola Pekovic played 24 minutes again in his second consecutive game back from strained abdominal muscles.
"Tough, even tougher than last night," he said. "I was trying to keep pushing because I know I need to push through."
Adelman limited Andrei Kirilenko to 16 minutes in his second game back from injury when Monday's game got out of hand.
Kirilenko played nearly 25 minutes Sunday, five minutes more than a 20-minute limit suggested by the training staff.
Closing in on a comeback?
Forward Chase Budinger said he could play as soon as Thursday at Sacramento, if he comes through his first 5-on-5 practice Wednesday feeling fine.
"It all depends on how I practice," said Budinger, who has been working out with coaches on his own but hasn't practiced fully with his teammates since getting doctor's clearance last week to return to contact action.
•Wolves guard Brandon Roy traveled with the team and shot before Monday's game, but Adelman said he has not been given any indication from the medical training staff that Roy is close to practicing, let alone playing in a game again.