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.
Greetings for a final time from Target Center tonight.
The Wolves just lost a game they probably should have one. Both teams had just one December win to their credit when this thing started, and the Pacers were playing after having played in Denver Saturday night. And yet it was the Wolves that stumbled out of the gate with no energy. After the game coach Flip Saunders again questioned his team’s sense of urgency and postulated that his young players might be getting too complacent.
It won't be any easier Tuesday in Cleveland.
Here are some thoughts on the game:
--Shabazz Muhammad might have started off struggling with his shot, but he continued to work hard. And he was the reason the team was able to come back and make it a game in the second half. Before the game Saunders talked about how other teams are now focusing on stopping Muhammad, and yet he continues to score, in double figures with 21 points tonight.
--Just when you think Chase Budinger is rounding back into pre-injury shape…. He was 6-for-10 tonight for 13 points. Yes. But he also threw up two airballs late.
--Gorgui Dieng played better as the game wore on, but he struggling keeping Roy Hibbert out of the paint to start the game.
--What an up-and-down game for Zach LaVine. He plays half of the first quarter like he’s half asleep and gets benched. Then he comes out and scores nine third-quarter points, with two assists and a steal.
That’s about it for tonight. Have a great holiday season.
Well, that was interesting.
All people will remember from Sunday’s game is that Kobe Bryant passed Michael Jordan into third place on the league’s all-time scoring list. What I will remember is Bryant, in his 19th season, hitting the game-winning shot on Andrew Wiggins, the Wolves rookie many think has the talent to become a great player himself.
Indeed, after the game was over, Bryant said that, in Wiggins, he saw a younger version of himself. “It’s like looking at a reflection of myself 19 years ago,” he said. “It was pretty cool.’’
I’ll say. Bryant scored 26 points, 10 in the fourth quarter, including a 26-point three-pointer with 1:02 left that broke a 94-all tie.
Here are some other thoughts on the game
--How about Shabazz Muhammad? Wolves coach Flip Saunders said his sore ankle and a sore back nearly kept him out of this game. Saunders said he didn’t know he’d have Muhammad available until 10 minutes before game time. And then Bazz comes off the bench to match his career high with 28 points in less than 28 minutes played. He was 12-for-21 shooting, had nine rebounds.
--It was a tough night for both Wiggins and LaVine. But especially for LaVine. After the game Saunders said he has to convince LaVine to use his left hand when he drives to the basket on the left side. LaVine keeps wanting to go back to the right hands. But, Saunders said, that’s where the big guys are. But LaVine has time. Saunders said it took nearly 60 games into Steph Marbury’s rookie year to get that same point across.
--Wiggins? He started strong, scoring the Wolves’ first six points. Then he started getting into foul trouble, which hampered him much of the rest of the night. At least until late; Wiggins scored six fourth quarter points as well.
--Saunders said he thinks the Wolves defense, while still a work in progress, is getting better. The Lakers shot 42 percent Sunday. That’s better than a few games ago, Saunders said, when teams were shooting 55 percent.
That’s about all for now. Have a great night and a good week.
Greetings for a final time from San Antonio, where the Wolves took a big step backward in a one-sided loss to the Spurs.
What an up and down season, as far as effort goes. Wolves coach Flip Saunders ripped the teams effort in a loss to Philly, and his guys respond with a strong effort in Friday’s overtime loss to Houston.
And then this?
The Spurs were resting two starters and played Tim Duncan only 18-plus minutes. And yet the Spurs basically cruised after a run to end the first quarter.
“You play that way against Houston, and you come in here today? … That’s what’s disappointing.”
Here are some nuggets from tonight’s game.
--Zach LaVine became the fourth teenager to have a 20-point, 10-assist night in the NBA. LeBron James did it (eight times), as did Stephon Marbury (three times) as well as a fellow named Dejuan Wagner. And yet Saunders was in no mood to give anyone compliments. “Somebody’s going to score, even when you’re playing bad,” he said.
--The only players Saunders gave even a little praise to was Shabazz Muhammad, who scored 20 points in 21-plus minutes of playing time, and Anthony Bennett, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
--Saunders said teams have taken to playing very physically against Andrew Wiggins, and the rookie has yet to respond. Tonight Kawhi Leonard was all over Wiggins, who scored six points on 3-for-13 shooting.
--Glen Robinson made his first three-pointer ever tonight. He scored 7 minutes in 12 minutes of playing time.
That’s about it. The team flew home after the game, will have Sunday off and get back at it Monday. We’ll see how they respond. Have a good night, and a good rest of your weekend.
By Rachel Blount
Greetings from Target Center after the Wolves’ 114-112 overtime loss to Houston. After Wednesday’s stinker against Philadelphia, the Wolves rebounded with a good effort, though they were doomed by sketchy execution late in the game.
The mantra this week has been to forget about the loss to 0-17 Philly and move forward. That task was made more complicated Friday when Mo Williams sat out because of back spasms, further decimating the roster. But the Wolves played hard throughout the game and got nice performances from a host of players, including Shabazz Muhammad (20 points on 8-of-15 shooting), Zach LaVine (17 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter), Thad Young (19 points), Gorgui Dieng (15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, six rebounds, three steals) and Corey Brewer (15 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three blocked shots).
Coach Flip Saunders appreciated the Wolves’ ability to distance themselves from the Philadelphia debacle, but he wasn’t letting them off the hook for their mistakes. They rallied from 13 points down with 5:26 to go and led 105-101 after an Andrew Wiggins dunk with 58.2 seconds left. But Donatas Motiejunas’ short jumper made it 105-103--and then LaVine, who had been going strong to the basket, missed on a 22-footer. Dieng fouled Motiejunas with 15 seconds left, and his free throws sent it to overtime.
LaVine also missed a three-pointer in overtime with the score tied at 110 and 1:10 to go. Saunders wasn’t thrilled with his shot selection or with his defensive lapse in overtime, when Nick Johnson got past him to drive to the hoop for the winning layup with 0.8 seconds left. Nor was he happy about the late fouls in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“Zach had some great moments, and down the stretch, you hope he’ll be able to control things,’’ Saunders said. “He had a couple ill-advised shots. If you’re going to shoot, shoot it right away, but we didn’t need threes at the time.
“The disappointing thing, more than anything else, is (Houston) won the game from the free-throw line. At the end of the game when we’re up by two, (Dieng) fouls (Motiejunas) when he puts the ball on the floor away from the basket, and they get two free throws. And, of course, when Thad fouls (Jason Terry) at the end (with 25 seconds left in overtime, when Terry hit both foul shots to put Houston up 112-110).’’
Saunders said earlier Friday that the young Wolves need to learn to play outside their comfort zones, a step he said is necessary for their development. Friday’s mistakes were part of that process. With inexperienced players in new roles, getting more minutes than they’re used to, Saunders said they still are learning how to respond in a variety of situations. Sometimes, that means they don’t see all the options available; sometimes, they don’t understand how to handle a scenario they haven’t faced as an NBA player.
That was particularly true of LaVine, who also had six rebounds and four assists in 34:55 of playing time. “It was a development night (for LaVine),’’ Saunders said. “He did some good things and some things that weren’t as good. He’s in a tough situation. He played a lot of minutes, and he’s not used to it. It’s a learning process.’’
Asked about his shot selection, LaVine wasn’t shy. “They could have been some questionable shots, but I’m a confident dude,’’ he said. “I feel like I can make that stuff. Coach may have different opinions on that, but I feel like I’m a confident person on my shot.’’
LaVine also said he feels “a lot more comfortable’’ and sees improvement in the team. “You can see how we’re getting better,’’ he said. “We’re just trying to get it clicking, man. I feel like we’re going to be really good.’’
Some random stats:
--The Wolves’ 66 points in the paint were a season high. They outscored Houston 66-40 in the paint, including 16-6 in the fourth quarter.
--The Wolves outrebounded Houston 43-42, including a 14-7 advantage on the offensive boards.
And one random quote from Houston coach Kevin McHale:
“They played harder than we did tonight. I knew they were going to play hard after that Philadelphia loss. … I’ll give them credit. Embarrassing as it was to lose to Philadelphia and all the other crap, Flip got them going, and he had them playing hard. We just got lucky to win.’’
Well, that was ugly, wasn’t it?
Greetings from Target Center for a final time tonight, following an 85-77 loss to the previously winless 76ers in a game Philadelphia ended on a 12-2 run.
The Wolves set or matched season lows with first quarter points, first half points, total points and shooting percentage. What makes it worse is that Philadelphia played nearly as badly. But, at least, they played hard. Harder than the Wolves, anyway.
Here are some thoughts on the game:
--So who came with the right attitude to play? Mo Williams, for one. He didn’t play well, but that’s because he had a very sore back. But, according to coach Flip Saunders, he insisted on playing because he didn’t want the Wolves to lose to Philadelphia. After that? Gorgui Dieng, perhaps, who had a 15-point, 16-rebound game. After that, I just don’t know.
--After the game Saunders pledged to sit players who didn’t play hard, or players who continued to make the same mistakes over and over again. It won’t be easy, given the team’s injury situation. But Saunders sounded like a coach who’d just about had it after this loss. Tonight Anthony Bennett was benched after playing just 3½ minutes. So it has already began.
--Check out these shooting numbers for the Wolves starters: Wiggins 4-for-12, Young 6-for-16, Corey Brewer 3-for-11, Williams 5-for-14. Only Dieng (6-for-12) reached 50 percent.
--Four of the five Wolves starters had four or more turnovers.
--The Wolves had more turnovers (19) than assists (17).
That’s about it for now. From the sounds of it, Saunders promised a rather intense practice Thursday. I’ll get back to you after it’s over with an update. Have a good rest of your evening.
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