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.
Well, the Wolves took a while to take care of this game tonight. A loss to the Bucks would have been disastrous. As it is, all the Wolves did by winning was keep pace with Memphis in the Western Conference.
Here are a few reactions to the game:
--On a night when he said his body wasn’t feeling very good, Kevin Love gutted out a 27-point, 10-rebound performance. He also had six assists. And this from a guy who had just nine points and four rebounds at halftime.
--Kevin Martin also shook off a slow start – he was 5-for-13 in the first half – to score 26 points. Twelve of those came in the third quarter, when the Wolves took back control of the game.
--After a stretch of games in which J.J. Barea really struggled, I think he was the most important person in a Wolves uniform tonight. Where would Minnesota have been at halftime if he hadn’t scored 17 points in the first two quarters? Not within six, I can tell you that.
--Ricky Rubio continued his recent efficient play, scoring 11 points on 3-for-4 shooting to go with 10 assists. It was his 10th double-double of the season.
--Minnesota native Nate Wolters had a big group in the stands tonight. And he responded by scoring 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting with three assists for the Bucks.
That’s about all for now. Jerry will be in charge tomorrow.
The Milwaukee Bucks might be a little tired tonight, playing on the back end of back-to-back games. But they should be confident.
Monday in Milwaukee the Bucks overcame an 18-point first-half deficit to beat Orlando. It was their biggest comeback of the season and it ended a three-game losing streak.
Here are some items from today’s morning shoot:
--Nate Wolters will play his first pro regular season game in Minnesota tonight. Wolters, the former St. Cloud Tech and South Dakota State star, is starting at guard for the Bucks. He was a second-round draft pick by Washington last summer. But, in two separate draft-day trades, Wolters found himself going to Philadelphia, and then to Milwaukee. He is averaging 7.0 points on 42.7 percent shooting for the Bucks. He will be talking with the media prior to tonight’s game, so I’ll have more in tomorrow’s paper.
--Luc Mbah a Moute’s own personal fan club will finally get to see him play tonight. A group of 12 kids ranging in age from 15 to 18 from Basket-Club Nyonsais – a club located near Avignon in the south of France – will be at Target Center tonight.
A friend of Mbah a Moute’s played for the club when he was younger, and he told them about Mbah a Moute. They quickly started following his career and decided to raise some money to come to the United States to watch him play.
That’s when the problems started. They held fundraisers, then bought tickets for a trip to watch Mbah a Moute play in Milwaukee last season. But Mbah a Moute was traded to Sacramento before the trip happened. So the group decided to switch their tickets to watch Mbah a Moute play for the Kings against Brooklyn on Sunday. Problem is, Mbah a Moute was traded again, this time to the Wolves.
Ultimately, the club decided to go through with the trip, which also included watching the Kings play in Philadelphia Wednesday.
But Mbah a Moute made sure they got to see him, too. He paid for tickets to bring the group from New York to Minnesota for tonight's game, then get them to Phiadelphia in time to watch Wednesday's game. He dined with them on Monday night, and they will meet him pre- and post-game.
“I thought it was amazing,” Mbah a Moute said of the club. “I just can’t imagine kids actually coming and doing something like that for someone they don’t know, to just come out and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to watch him play.’ That says a lot about their support and shows me a lot of gratitude. So I think it’s pretty special for me.”
--Kevin Love on breaking the team’s single-season record for three-pointers made, something he did against Toronto Sunday: “I didn’t really know,” he said. “When it popped up on the Jumbotron up there, I didn’t really realize it had happened. It’s cool to be in the Wolves history books like that. Hopefully I can keep getting that number up there to help the team, and also put it out of reach for a few more years.
That’s about all for now. I’ll get back to you tonight.
Toronto makes its only Target Center visit this season tongiht and will be without reserve forward Patrick Patterson, who is a late scratch because of a sprained elbow.
Patterson re-aggravated an elbow he had hurt in the past week during Friday's home victory over Sacramento.
His absence will hurt the Raptors' depth -- which has been the foundation of their 27-13 turnaround since they traded star Rudy Gay to the Kings in December for Patterson and three other bench players -- as well as take away a key defender they intended to use on Kevin Love.
Without him, the Raptors will have to rely on veterans Chuck Hayes (one of those four players acquired in the trade), Steve Novak and Tyler Hansbrough.
The Detroit Pistons arrive at Target Center tonight 13 games under .500 and...just three games behind Atlanta for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.
The Wolves, meanwhile, are even at 30-30 and five games behind Dallas for the West's final spot and the clock is ticking loudly.
If the season ended today, both Charlotte and Atlanta would make the playoffs in the East with losing records.
And Memphis with a 34-26 record would miss out in the West.
"I just think that's the way it is," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said about the disparity between the strength of the two conferences. "There's nothing you can do about it."
That said, Adelman suggested the league should be "aggressive" in seeking ways to modify the playoffs to make them more equitable.
"You look at each year as it comes and see if there's any way to tweak it," he said. "This is just one of those years you have to deal with."
The Knicks came to Target Center Wednesday with a 21-40 record and yet were about as far away from the playoffs as the Wolves are.
Then the Wolves went out and got run over from the start.
Tonight, they face a physical Pistons team with a talented frontcourt. Another loss could just about end any realistic ambitions the Wolves have to catch up and claim a playoff spot.
The day after a very disappointing loss to the Knicks, the Wolves spent a lot of time looking a film. This is what they saw:
“We defended very poorly,” coach Rick Adelman said.
“Our pick and roll defense was pretty bad,” Corey Brewer said.
Then the Wolves spent a rather long practice trying to change that. With games dwindling and playoff prospects dimming, the Wolves cannot afford a replay of the effort they showed against the Knicks Wednesday.
Tomorrow the Wolves get Detroit, another Eastern Conference team that is struggling, having lost eight of their last 10 games. But fans know what that’s worth; the Knicks came into Wednesday’s game having lost seven straight.
“We’re better than our record,” Brewer said. “We’ve lost a lot of close games. We felt like we were starting to play well, but last night was a tough loss to take. Especially coming off a good road trip.”
A couple items from today’s practice:
--Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, who both stayed long after practice to work on their shots, were the last two players off the court today.
--Center Nikola Pekovic continues to feel pain in his ankle. He can play through it, he says, but the team is going to have to continue to watch his minutes for the foreseeable future.
“It’s hard to explain,” he said. “When I’m running, jumping, I have pain,” he said. “But when I finish I don’t have pain.’’
That’s about it for now. Jerry will be with the team tomorrow.
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