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.

Now It Really Feels Like a Winning Streak

Posted by: under Wolves postgame, Super Bowl Updated: February 7, 2010 - 12:42 AM

 

The Timberwolves' last loss was on Jan. 27, and only three NBA teams -- Cleveland, Phoenix and Utah -- can go farther back than that since their last defeat. No, they're not exactly moving into playoff contention, but the Wolves are enjoying their four-game run. The atmosphere in the Wolves' locker room is certainly different.

Case in point: After talking to reporters about his 15-point third-quarter scoring spree for a few minutes, Corey Brewer walked into the trainer's room, then suddenly returned, realizing he had forgotten to give Ryan Gomes proper recognition for his 20-point first half.

Those hot streaks wouldn't have meant as much, of course, if Jefferson hadn't gone on one of his own, scoring 12 straight points at one stretch of the fourth quarter to take over the game. The last of those six straight baskets, a one-handed 10-footer, had Jefferson smiling as he ran up the floor, reminiscent of Michael Jordan's palms-up, I-can't-explain-it shrug during the 1992 NBA Finals. "I was feeling it. I was feeling good," Jefferson said. "Shots were just going in."

Jefferson's arms began cramping as he talked to reporters, and he said the game took a lot out of him. Not that he cared, not with his team on a four-game winning streak. "I even got winded, but the energy was coming out of somewhere for me -- out of nowhere," he said. "My whole body is sore, cramping up. But it's part of the game."

The winning streak is particularly enjoyable, Jefferson said, because the Wolves are paying back some past pain. Their victims have included the Clippers, who beat them by 25 in their previous visit; the Knicks, who won by 27 in New York; the Mavericks, who won by 12 in November; and the Grizzlies, who administered a 135-110 thumping in Memphis last month that may have represented the non-competitive low point of the Wolves' season.

"We owed these teams," Jefferson said. Hey, good news: If the Timberwolves can keep paying back every team that's whipped up on them during this 13-38 season, the Revenge Tour has a lot more stops to make.

A few more odds and ends before the Wolves take Super Bowl Sunday off (a revelation that came as something of a shock to the practice-happy Wolves):

-- The Grizzlies had won the first three games between the teams this season, and coach Kurt Rambis pinpointed why: The Wolves were consistently outplayed immediately after halftime, outscored 93-58 in the third quarter of those games. "That's been our downfall. You take away the third quarter, we're up in two of them," the coach said.  That didn't happen Saturday, and Brewer made sure of it. The Wolves' shooting guard, held to two points on 1-for-7 shooting in the first half, suddenly found his shooting stroke in the second half. Brewer made seven of his nine shots in the third quarter, putting up 15 of his 17 points in the period, and Minnesota outscored Memphis 29-25 in the quarter. "I just kept playing. Coach said 'Keep taking your shot, it's going to go in," Brewer said. "And he was right."

-- Ryan Hollins' amazing three-game run stalled, and it looked like he heard it from Rambis a few times. Hollins stood several feet outside Minnesota's huddle after one lecture from his coach, apparently trying to keep his composure. Hollins finished with four points and three rebounds in 25:49. That comes after three consecutive games of 15 or more points -- a remarkable stretch considering he's scored 15 points just five times in his entire four-year career.

-- Lionel Hollins -- no relation, that I'm aware of -- wasn't exactly impressed with the Wolves' victory, probably because his team played Friday night, too, losing at home to Houston. "Every game is different. They beat us tonight, and that is all it is," the Memphis coach said after the Grizzlies' third straight loss. "It is not because we can't hold leads, or we don't match up. They just beat us. They played well and they executed down the stretch."

-- I mentioned it in the game story, but Jonny Flynn came out of the game four minutes into the second half, and never returned. Rambis said he tried to put Flynn back in, but the rookie talked him out of it because Ramon Sessions was playing so well (19 points, six assists). Flynn wasn't bad, though his shot wasn't falling; he scored six points on 2-for-5 shooting, with five assists. "That means a lot to me as a coach, that players will make sacrifices for the benefit of the team, even when it costs them playing time," Rambis said. "I really appreciate that from Jonny." So did Jefferson, who assured us he would never have given away playing time when he was a rookie. "He just said, 'Let it ride,' and that surprised me for a rookie," Jefferson said. "But he saw that Ramon was playing well, so that says a lot about him."

-- Kevin Love had a funny moment on defense, though he didn't seem to see the humor in it. in the second quarter, he was guarding Zach Randolph about 18 feet from the basket as the shot clock counted down to 1. Randolph just threw the ball toward the hoop, and it banked high off the backboard and bounced in. Love had his arms out as he ran up the floor, gesturing in disbelief toward the Wolves' bench.

-- Brewer made a couple of nice defensive plays, including skying for a rebound after Randolph missed a contested layup that would have closed the Wolves' lead to three with a minute to play. The other memorable play was a steal late in the third quarter, when he deflected a pass and managed to knock it through Sam Young's legs to Kevin Love, who threw it ahead to Brewer for a dunk.

 

-- PHIL MILLER

 

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