Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic well exceeded his playing-time limit by playing 33 minutes in Sunday’s 111-104 loss to Toronto, which is fine as long as you understand it’s more of a guideline than a rule.
“He told me 20 minutes, but I’ve kind of hedged it to 27,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said before the game, referring to instructions from head athletic trainer Gregg Farnam since Pekovic returned after missing a month’s action because of ankle bursitis. “I was never good at math.”
Adelman contends the total number of minutes played isn’t as important as the length of stretches on which he must rely on Pekovic while backup center Ronny Turiaf remains out injured. He wants to limit Pekovic to only five or six minutes played at a time, but needed Pekovic to play nearly nine consecutive minutes in Sunday’s second quarter to keep the game from getting away from his Wolves.
“When he goes out of the game we become really small and everything changes for us,” Adelman said before the game. “It’s not wise to go more than seven-minute stretches. If he’s laboring, he can hurt it again. We certainly want what’s best for him. I don’t think you ever know: If it’s 22 minutes, is 26 minutes going to be that much more? As long as it’s not long stretches, he seems to be handling it well.”
Pekovic delivered a 17-point, 11-rebound double-double game in those 33 minutes.
“I’ve still got some pain here and there, but my wind is good, so that’s kind of encouraging,” Pekovic said. “The next few games I hope get better and better. Coach is trying to maintain seven-, six-minute [stretches] but some game you just need to play [more].”
Asked how long he will play supposedly with a minute restriction, Pekovic said: “Depends how my foot responds. I don’t know. I don’t have any idea. I’m just glad it’s not sore the next day. That’s important for me.”
Wolves star Kevin Love’s three-pointer with 8:16 left in the third quarter was his third of the night and his 143rd of the season, which broke Rashad McCants’ franchise record set during the 2007-08 season.
Love made one more the rest of the way, and approached another triple-double by third quarter’s end with a 26-point, 11-rebound, nine-assist game but couldn’t get that one more assist in the fourth quarter.
“He certainly has the ability to make that shot. We’ve all seen it,” Adelman said. “It just shows his all-around ability. He can go inside, he makes threes in a short amount of time. That’s pretty special.”
The Raptors are 28-13 since acquiring four players in a trade that sent star Rudy Gay to the Kings in December. They were 7-13 before role players Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes arrived from Sacramento.
“That’s a little bit simplistic,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said when asked if one deal transformed his team’s season. “It wasn’t about Rudy Gay or what Rudy was doing or not doing when the trade happened. It’s just an addition, the right fit of different guys that came. It gave us some solid players, all guys who have a high basketball I.Q. There’s no superstars, so to speak, but really solid basketball players who have added chemistry to our team.”
• Patterson missed Sunday’s game because of a sprained elbow he aggravated in Friday’s home victory over Sacramento. The Raptors called upon veteran Steve Novak to play more in Patterson’s absence. Novak played 18 minutes, made five three-pointers that accounted for all of his 15 points. Novak played a total of 27 seconds in the Raptors’ previous two games.
• Corey Brewer’s six steals matched his career high.
• Wolves guard A.J. Price was ill Sunday and was inactive, along with Turiaf. That left rookie Robbie Hummel active and in uniform Sunday.