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, where the Wolves trailed from start to finish against an Orlando team that was very, very beatable tonight.
I must say, this was the most man-against-boys game I’ve covered in a while Nikola Vucevic destroyed the Wolves beat-up frontcourt, getting a career-high 37 points and 17 rebounds. He nearly had as many rebounds as the entire Wolves starting five.
The Wolves allowed the Magic 20 offensive rebounds and got just three themselves, matching a season low; Orlando got off 28 more shot attempts than the Wolves did, and yet this game was winnable until rather late in the fourth quarter.
Here are some final thoughts on the game:
--Kevin Martin struggled in his return from a hamstring injury. He missed his first seven shots. On the plus side, he rebounded to make three of his final five shots, get to the line seven times and finish with 12 points. He also had three assists and a rebound, just one fewer than both Andrew Wiggins and Adreian Payne
--Speaking of which, how can two starting forwards play a total of 60-plus minutes and combine for four rebounds?
--I will say this for Wiggins. He continues to get himself to the free throw line. He got there 13 times tonight, making 10. That’s what kept the Wolves in this game; they got 32 FT attempts to 17 for Orlando.
--Justin Hamilton did his best, but he’s just not ready for the likes of Vucevic yet. Hamilton had 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting and had nine rebounds. But he struggled to contain Orlando’s big man.
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you after the Wolves’ practice tomorrow.
Greetings for a final time from Target Center, where the Wolves just lost by 20.
I guess losing, again, is not surprising considering the Wolves’ injury situation; tonight coach Flip Saunders started his 27th different lineup of the season, a franchise record.
But, even so, this was a listless loss. The defense was again lacking, especially in the lane. I know all the big men are hurt. But giving up a 29-6 run from late in the second quarter into the third is hard to accept.
That said, there were a few memorable Wolves moments, all supplied by Andrew Wiggins, including his second-quarter dunk on Jazz center Rudy Gobert.
Here are some thoughts from the game:
--Chase Budinger, off the bench, was again impressive tonight. From start to finish no other Wolves player matched Budinger’s intensity, at either end of the floor. Budinger had 14 points and seven rebounds to go with two assists and a steal.
--Zach LaVine also had his moments. Yes, he struggled with his shot (7-for-19). But he scored 21 points with five rebounds and six assists. And, in more than 43 minutes played, LaVine only had two turnovers. That is progress.
--It was a tough night for Adreian Payne, easily his most difficult with the Wolves. He was 0-for-7 shooting, didn’t score a point and had just five rebounds in 32 minutes oa playing time. And he had four turnovers.
--The Wolves continue to get to the line, getting 27 free throw attempts tonight compared to 18 for Utah. Leading the way, again, was Wiggins, who was 7-for-9 on free throws.
--To give you an idea how dire the Wolves big man situation is, Budinger and Robbie Hummel came off the bench to lead the team with seven rebounds each.
That’s about it for now. Jerry will have the team Wednesday.
Greetings for a final time from Target Center, where the Wolves lost the battle but may have made some progress when it comes to the war.
What do I mean by this? That Wolves’ rookies Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine took a few more steps in their development tonight, got even more experience in the pressure of overtime games. Plus, the Wolves are still in pretty good draft lottery position.
Here are some thoughts from the game
--After Andrew Wiggins scored a game-high 27 points, coach Flip Saunders said this: “He had a 40-point game at his fingertips. He missed a couple opportunities early.’’ In my opinion, Wiggins could have been given a few more calls as well.
--What an interesting game by Zach LaVine. On the one hand, he was aggressive from start to finish, got to the line when it counted. But he also slipped up a bit late on defense. And he had another four turnovers tonight.
--Center Gorgui Dieng also has battled the turnover bug lately. He had six tonight, and has averaged three TOs per game over his last five games.
--Chase Budinger continues to play better and better. He scored a season-high 22 points tonight, on 9-for-14 shooting, hitting the corner three that forced overtime. He has hit multiple three-pointers in consecutive games for the first time this season.
--More Wiggins: He has scored 20 or more points in 23 games this season.
That’s about it for now. Jerry will be with the team on the road.
Greetings from a final time from Target Center. I’m about to battle the snow on my long commute home.
The Wolves managed another statistical quirk tonight, shooting better than 55 percent and losing for just the third time since the 1996-97 season. They’re record in those games in that time: 63-3. The biggest reasons: Turnovers and lack of rebounding, something that likely won’t change until a few of the Wolves'’ healthy players return to action.
Here are some other thoughts on the game:
--Kevin Martin had nine assists tonight. That is a career record. “I don’t know if he’s had nine assists in a month of games,” joked coach Flip Saunders.
--Eight Wolves players saw action tonight. Seven of them scored in double figures.
--The team’s injury situation got worse when Gary Neal went down early in the fourth quarter with a sprained left ankle. He didn’t make the trip to Utah, which means there might be only seven players available for Monday’s game against the Jazz.
--Tonight the Wolves’ bench scored 30 points on 13-for-17 shooting.
--Adreian Payne is going to struggle defensively until he gets stronger and more experienced. But he had a nice game tonight with 13 points, nine rebounds and an assist. He and Gorgui Dieng combined for 29 points and 17 rebounds.
That’s about it for now. Jerry will be with the team tomorrow in Utah.
Greetings for a final time from the Target Center, where the Wolves were beat up by the Nets tonight.
The Nets scored 78 points in the paint, the most by an NBA team this season and the most since Houston allowed 80 in a game last April. That’s what happens when you have go to with a post rotation of Gorgui Dieng, Adreian Payne and Justin Hamilton.
Here are some final thoughts on the game:
--I shudder to think how bad this one would have been had the Wolves not hit nine of 15 three-pointers. Kevin Martin hit three of five and Zach LaVine hit four of six.
--In the third quarter, the Wolves got a total of 10 points from players not named Martin. K-Mart scored 14 of his 21 in that frame.
--The Wolves bench was outscored 55-33.
--That said, one of the few bright spots tonight came from Chase Budinger, who put together yet another strong game with 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting. He has scored in double figures in three of his past four games.
--After the game coach Flip Saunders said that for guys like Payne, Dieng and Hamilton working in the weight room will be Job 1 this summer. After watching tonight’s game, I agree.
--LaVine continues to be an interesting rookie combination of enticing ability and frustrating play. Yes, his shot was on tonight. But he at times drove Saunders to distraction with his turnovers (six) and his play on the defensive end.
That’s about it for now. Jerry will be with the team on the road later this week.
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