Jerry Zgoda missed the entire Kevin Garnett era, but he's back covering the Timberwolves after working the beat for their first four seasons two decades ago. In between, he covered a bit of everything: Gopher men's and women's basketball and NCAA athletics, golf, outdoor recreation, sports media and a little Vikings and Twins.

What the Pek?: Wolves win 108-105 at New Jersey

Posted by: Jerry Zgoda under Wolves players, Wolves postgame, On the road, Wolves news Updated: February 4, 2012 - 2:48 AM

Yes, Brook Lopez and Mehmet Okur were out injured for New Jersey on Friday night, which meant the great Shelden Williams started at center for the Nets and veteran center Johan Petro played all of seven minutes here in Newark.

But, still...

Nikola Pekovic's 27-point, 11-rebound night in 34 minutes off the bench felt like something of a breakout performance.

The big fella just seems to finally be figuring this NBA thing out here by the game.

Funny what he can do when he's on the floor -- and against undersized guys -- and not on the bench in foul trouble, huh?

Tonight's double-double was his third in the last five games, and his second straight , and only one of those three double-doubles came as a starter when Darko! was out ill.

That could be changing.

Soon...

"We'll find out," Wolves coach Rick Adelman replied when I asked him if Pek's game means there finally be that change in the starting lineup at center for which so many Wolves fans have been clamoring.

Here's the game story from Friday focusing on Pekovic's night and another gutty, smart fourth-quarter performance by Ricky Rubio, who got screened out of the game's final play but still stayed in there enough to get his hands on a deflected ball and deny Anthony Morrow a chance to force overtime by making what would have been his ninth 3-pointer of the night.

Adelman clearly rode his starters tonight. Well, everybody but Darko! that is.

Pek was the only reserve who played more than JJ Barea's 19:17.

Michael Beasley played just 15 minutes, Derrick Williams again got only six minutes' run. So, too, did Wayne Ellington.

Even less for Anthony Tolliver, who made a brief appearance for only the second time in five games, and Martell Webster on a night when Brad Miller didn't play at all and Anthony Randolph was a healthy scratch.

Meanwhile, Pek played all but 23 seconds of the second half.

And that was at the end of the game when Adelman turned his two point guard-offense into three point guards by sending Barea out there with Rubio and Luke Ridnour to give the team yet one more ball-handler and free-throw shooter after Wes Johnson fouled Anthony Morrow and turned a three-point shot into a four-point play and a five-point lead into just a one-point lead with 22.7 seconds left.

(Morrow only made eight threes and scored a career-high 42 points, but that's a whole 'nother blog in and of itself.)

So...back to Pek.

"The more he gets out there, the better he plays," Kevin Love said afterward about Pek. "He's so big in there, he's really tough to guard. We're really happy to have him. He's like everybody on this team: The more time he has on the floor, the more he continues to get better and better."

So he's figuring out NBA referees, and vice versa?

"Definitely," Love said, "and he's not traveling as much anymore and getting offensive fouls rolling to the basket. So he's figuring it out. The more time he sees, the better he's getting.

"He's done well for our team so far. When he rips through, nobody wants to get hit with those elbows. He's a force in there."

So where does that leave Darko!

Eight minutes of playing time on Friday, I guess.

The victory makes the Wolves 6-4 on the road already this season after they went 5-36 there each of the last two seasons.

It also moved them to 11-12, or once again within one victory of reaching that .500 mark.

Remember: They've been here three times before and couldn't get there.

They get another chance Saturday night at home against the Rockets.

I asked Love why the Wolves can't play all their games on the road?

"I wish it were that way," he said. "We'd be good. We'd be over the doomed .500 mark that we can't seem to get over. We're headed back home now."

Is it just a matter of who they're playing and where -- they've won road games at Washington, New Orleans, the L.A. Clippers, Dallas and Houston, the last three teams all with winning records, before beating the Nets -- or do they really playe better on the road?

"I don't really know," Love said. "This is disrespect to our fans or saying anything about home is detrimental, but I like being on the road. I like it because it's just us, us-against-the-world mentality, just us and our bench and our coaching staff and that's it."

And that's it from New Jersey tonight.

Wolves flew home after the game and have got yet another game against the Rockets coming up Saturday night.

Kent's got that one, but maybe I'll show up and blog some during it.

Or maybe not.

We'll see.

Either way, check back tomorrow and big Kent will be chiming in here with the latest and greatest.

 

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