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Wolves: Starting no problem, but finishing? Well...
- Article by: Jerry Zgoda
- Star Tribune
- November 12, 2007 - 12:28 AM
SACRAMENTO, CALIF. - Unable to grasp a rebound, a jump ball or a break when they needed it most, the Timberwolves returned home Sunday from a two-game West Coast trip one loss shy of reaching a franchise record six-game losing streak to open a season.
That was set in 1994, the season that delivered Kevin Garnett in the NBA draft the next summer.
"We don't have a problem with coming out and competing," said Wolves guard Rashad McCants, who returned for Saturday's 100-93 loss at Sacramento after missing Friday's game in Los Angeles because of a sprained ankle. "We have a problem with finishing."
The Wolves have lost those five games by an average of 8.2 points and have been outdistanced by their opponents in free-throw attempts 202-93. On Saturday, they lost that contest 40-24.
"The officiating was great, top notch," McCants said. "The NBA does a great job. It ain't about the officiating. We've got to make them call fouls. We've got to get to the line. We've got to be aggressive with the ball. We've got to build respect around the league that we're the type of team that gets to the line.
"We haven't established that, and that's being young with no veteran-type leader who demands that respect getting those fouls. It's going to be hard."
The Wolves exacerbated their foul-shot disparity issues by allowing the Kings to grab six consecutive offensive rebounds on one possession before hitting a couple of free throws down the stretch.
"Fourth quarter, down two or three with two minutes to go, we've got to find a way to win," said McCants, who scored 16 points in 26 minutes. "They're not going to give it to us. We've got to find it."
Rookie swingman Corey Brewer matched a season high in minutes with 29 and set career highs in points (16), rebounds (eight) and assists (two) and was 7-for-7 from the free-throw line, best on the team. He also defended Kings leading scorer Kevin Martin a good bit of the game.
"I'm learning to play the NBA game," Brewer said. "It's coming slowly, but it's coming."
Coach Randy Wittman elected not to play veteran Antoine Walker and Gerald Green on Saturday night.
"We can't play 12 guys," said Wittman, who said he made his decision based on the night's matchups. "It's hard to play nine."
Forward Craig Smith left the game in the fourth quarter because of an ankle injury. X-rays were negative, but he was listed Sunday as day-to-day.
The Wolves were beaten Saturday by Martin's 29 points, by the Kings' relentless rebounding down the stretch, by Brad Miller's clinching tip-in with 10 seconds left.
They also were beaten by a former Timberwolf, Kings point guard Beno Udrih.
Who? Udrih was acquired from San Antonio in a trade the day rosters were set two weeks ago. He immediately was waived in a salary-cap bookkeeping arrangement that brought the Wolves some cash and the Spurs some cap relief. Three days later, Udrih signed with Sacramento.
On Saturday, his jump shot with 47 seconds left repelled a Wolves' comeback thrust.
"The kid made a big shot at the end," Wittman said. "Made a play. We've got to learn to do that."
Jerry Zgoda firstname.lastname@example.org
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