Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic drives around Celtics forward Brandon Bass
Genevieve Ross, Associated Press
Pekovic leads Wolves to 110-100 victory over Celtics
- Article by: Jerry Zgoda
- Star Tribune
- April 2, 2013 - 6:03 AM
Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic’s European agent tweeted out news Monday that his client might sign with a Turkish team immediately after the NBA season ends April 17.
It was a 137-character revelation that caused Euroleague journalists to scramble and might have alarmed a really dedicated Wolves fan or two who is already worried about the big guy leaving their team as a restricted free agent come July, particularly after Monday’s 110-100 victory over Boston at Target Center.
“It is, what, April 1,” Pekovic said afterward. “How do you say here?”
He laughed and walked out into the cold night after making the Celtics’ interior defense — minus one Kevin Garnett — look just a little bit foolish with a decisive 29-point performance just two nights after he missed Saturday’s loss to Memphis because of a sprained ankle.
Pekovic made all 11 free throws he attempted and came two points shy of his career scoring high on a night when the Wolves beat Boston for the first time since they traded Garnett there in 2007 and also moved Rick Adelman just two victories away from his 1,000th NBA win.
“Looks like it’s all right to me,” Adelman said about Pekovic’s ankle.
Adelman said he did mention to the big fellow that he had only five rebounds, just one more than little J.J. Barea.
“He was an offensive player tonight, that’s what he said,” Adelman said after the Wolves ended an 11-game losing streak to the Celtics. “He was conserving his energy.”
Pekovic scored 21 of those 29 points by halftime against a Celtics team missing starters Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce. The Wolves turned a five-point halftime lead into a 14-point bulge before the third quarter was eight minutes old, and Boston never got closer than six points again.
Andrei Kirilenko helped make sure of that by scoring nine of his 19 points in that third quarter. Ricky Rubio made sure of that all night long, running pick-and-rolls with Pekovic, Dante Cunningham and others to the tune of a 10-assist night. Cunningham had 12 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter and four rebounds and two steals while playing the entire quarter as well.
The Wolves had 30 assists and just eight turnovers.
“Things are a lot different,” Celtics guard Courtney Lee said of a team that’s chasing one of the East’s final playoff spots while missing Garnett’s shot blocking for two weeks. “KG is our defensive anchor back there. He sees everything.”
Pekovic got Celtics starter Chris Wilcox in early foul trouble, then had his way with reserve Shavlik Randolph.
“We knew they were missing some big guys,” Pekovic said. “I know if I don’t play hard, I know it’s going to easier job for them. I still have to put all my effort into playing hard.”
Pekovic’s 29 points were two shy of his career-high 31, scored at New Orleans in December. They also were a reminder that the Wolves can’t easily afford to lose Pekovic in summer free agency, and after Monday’s game he said he doesn’t intend to go anywhere, not even Turkey in time for this season’s European playoffs.
“That’s my preference, to stay here,” he said. “I like it. I enjoy it. I hope I’ll stay.”
Garnett is out because of ankle inflammation. Rondo’s season is over because of a torn knee ligament. Pierce missed Monday’s game due to a personal matter and the Celtics — seventh in the East when the night began — lost for the seventh time in nine games.
“Yeah, vividly, about five years ago,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said when asked if he remembers what life is like without those three. “It has been a while. I think it has happened before, I’m not even sure. I know we played a couple games without Ray [Allen], Paul and Kevin. But that was resting guys.”
Curtains for KG?
Could Monday’s game have been Garnett’s last chance to play in Minnesota? Probably not, but…
“Every year we don’t know if it’s his last time,” Rivers said. “Obviously, I hope not and we all hope not, but you never know with Kevin. Every summer he’s deciding if he’s coming back or not. I would hope that it isn’t because you would want him to play his last game here.”
• Former Celtics center Greg Stiemsma didn’t see a second of action against his old mates on Monday. Mickael Gelabale and Chris Johnson didn’t play for the Wolves either.
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