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 an entertaining game that was. But, before offering some reaction, here is a partial list of the season and/or franchise records the team set tonight.
In no particular order:
--Their 70 first-half points was season high and just the 8th time the Wolves have scored that many in a first half.
--Their 108 points through three quarters is a franchise record.
--The team could have gone scoreless over the final 15-plus minutes and still won.
--Their 34 assists was a season high and their most since 2008.
--They set or matched season highs in overall shooting, three-point shooting and three-pointers made.
Pause. Take a breath. And now more:
--Ricky Rubio’s 16 assists were a career high and one off the team record.
--Corey Brewer’s 27 points were his most in a Wolves uniform and two off his career high.
--Love is the first player in NBA history to tally 240-plus points, 125-plus rebounds and 45-plus assists in the first nine games of a season.
Now, some thoughts:
--It was really nice to see Robbie Hummel do so well in his first NBA start. He talked about having butterflies when he was told minutes before the game that he was going to start. He talked about how his heart began racing. And then he went out, hit his first three-pointer and finished with 10 points. After the game, we were crowding around to talk to him. He excused himself for a moment to go comb his hair; he said his mom would be mad if he was on TV with a cowlick.
--What else can Kevin Love do? 33 points on 10-for-16 shooting? 12-for-14 on free throws? Six assists. What a marvelous start to this season.
--Speaking of what more can someone do. Rubio has set career highs in assists in two of his last three games. He has 40 assists in that time.
--It was nice to see J.J. Barea have a strong night off the bench. He had seven assists in 13-plus minutes. Tonight Wolves guards combined for 25 assists.
--Center Nikola Pekovic continued his good recent efficient play. He scored just 10 points, but he only needed seven shots to do it. And he had seven rebounds and an assist.
That’s about it for tonight. I’ll get back to you after tomorrow’s practice.
Greetings for a final time tonight.
Just about everybody associated with the Wolves was a bit grumpy after tonight’s game, in which the team struggled at both ends of the court.
Kevin Love was most disappointed in the defense. Coach Rick Adelman and guard Ricky Rubio were upset with the offense. J.J. Barea put a lot of the blame on the bench, which struggled mightily.
I would suspect Adelman will practice them rather thoroughly Thursday.
Here are some thoughts on the game:
--The Wolves bench scored just 10 points and were a collective minus-42. This team needs both Chase Budinger and Ronny Turiaf back. Gorgui Dieng is not ready yet to be a backup NBA center, Alexey Shved is struggling horribly and tonight Derrick Williams was 0-for-6.
--Teams have taken to simply doubling up Barea whenever he’s out there with the second unit. So far, nobody else has made opponents pay for that.
--Ricky Rubio continues to struggle with his shot. After going 0-for-7 against Cleveland, he went 2-for-8 tonight, with four turnovers.
--Center Nikola Pekovic is still struggling to find his place in an offense that has a healthy Kevin Love and another scorer in Kevin Martin.
That’s about all for tonight. I’ll get back to you after Thursday’s practice.
The Wolves got Kevin Martin back in the starting lineup Sunday night in Montreal after he missed essentially three games because of that sore Achilles and you could see immediately what kind of difference he makes.
Kevin Love simply says Martin is the wing scorer for whom the Wolves have been waiting.
Here's the game story from Sunday with my latest Wolves Daily (Monday Edition) imbedded as well, shot just outside the NHL's Canadiens' locker room (you'll see some of their 24 Stanley Cups behind my noggin).
Just some quick random thoughts from the game, which improved the Wolves to 3-2 in preseason play:
* Don't worry about that "last in the NBA" stuff about this team's three-point shooting. That's so last year. Wolves made 10 of em tonight (OK, so they shot 25, but that's 40 percent).
Martin had half of those 10 -- that's five (on eight tries) for those keeping score at home -- and Love went 2-for-8, but it wasn't because of his hand. That shot here in preseason looks the Kevin Love from two years ago, not last year, even if the percentages don't say so yet.
* With Martin back and with five days of practices behind them after that unusual eight-day break, the Wolves starters -- with Derrick WIlliams inserted for Corey Brewer -- got off to a quick 18-7 start (remember starts have been their problem in those first four preseason games).
They still led by 11 midway through the fourth quarter when Rick Adelman sent the starters -- with Brewer for Williams this time -- back into the game and in 2 1/2 minutes they ran the lead to 20 points thanks to a 11-2 run.
Adelman said afterward that he believes this team will shoot the ball well and score without issue but defense and small forward remains issues.
* Martin and Love combined to score 43 points, but Rubio made the Wolves go with his passing and just enough offense to keep the Celtics' D honest: He turned the corner and got to the basket like he needs to do and made five of nien shots, including 2 of 3 threes. He doesn't need to shoot it great. He just needs to be enough of a threat to keep the defense honest.
* Williams played 23 minutes in the start, which Adelman said pregame was an experiment to help him decide where the team is going with that spot with opening night now just 10 days away.
Williams did a little of everything -- 7 boards, 2 assists, a block, 5 points -- and afterward Adelman said Williams played hard, tried to defend but he needs to continue to evaluate.
That probably means he and Flip Saunders will have more discussions if they can find either a more accomplished backup to Brewer at that spot through a free-agent signing or if they can find a starter through a trade.
* There was one bonafide NBA starting small forward on the floor Sunday, but it was the so-very-available Celtic Gerald Wallace, who makes $10 million a year and has three years left. No doubt he is the kind of player the Wolves seek, but he's 31 and that a huge contract for a team that by the time it expires will be paying Love, Nikola Pekovic and Rubio in the double-digit millions a year.
Still, that's the kind of trade -- a veteran starter with a big contract that another team wants to deal -- the Wolves will have to make if they decide to get something for Williams now rather than let him go later for nothing. Either that or swap Williams for a similar young player who hasn't yet achieved as his draft position dictates, such as Philly's Evan Turner.
* Good luck Brad Stevens. The rookie coaching trying to make the leap from Butler and college to the NBA is looking up the mountain. The Celtics with KG, Paul Pierce and injured Rajon Rondo are 1-6 in preseason play now and should be firmly in the Andrew Wiggins Sweepstakes.
Guess you can include Ricky Rubio among the list of players whose method of busting out of slumps is to keep shooting.
Rubio entered Saturday’s game with Phoenix at Target Center having shot 10-for-48 in his last five games, Rubio came out and took a career-high 18 shots. He made eight of them. That plus a 7-for-7 performance from the free throw line gave him a career-high 24 points in the Wolves’ 12-point victory.
“It’s a lot,” Rubio said of his shots. “But without (Kevin) Love and (Nikola Pekovic), there are a lot of shots to take, and I’m going to take them.”
Rubio knows how to end a slump in style. His 24-point, 10-assist, five-steal, five-rebound performance gave him his seventh 4x5 game of the season, tying him with LeBron James (2004-05) and Chris Paul (2008-09) for the most in a single season over the last 15 years.
More? It was Rubio’s 13th double-double of the season and his 15th game with 10 or more assists.
More? Rubio became the fourth player this year and just the third in Wolves history to college 20 or more points, 10 or more assists, and five or more steals and rebounds in a game. The others who have done it this season? Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, Monta Ellis (twice).
Here are some other thoughts on the game:
--When J.J. Barea is on, he can be one pesky little player. He scored 16 points – nine in the second half – on 7-for-9 shooting, and it was his five points at the start of the fourth quarter that helped give the Wolves a comfortable lead.
--Once again Derrick Williams was rewarded with strong play by sitting on the bench. He scored eight points and had four rebounds in 10 minutes of play in the third quarter – he and Luke Ridnour helped push the Wolves out of their lethargy – but he didn’t play a minute in the fourth quarter.
--Talk about a second-half turnaround. Barea said coach Rick Adelman had some strong halftime words. The Wolves responded by out-scoring Phoenix 55-40 in the second half, out-rebounding the Suns 21-10 and forcing 14 Suns turnovers in the second half.
--All five Wolves starters were in double figures, and those five players shot 30-for-59.
--The Wolves tied a franchise high with 17 steals and six of the nine Wolves players who saw action had at least two. Williams had four.
That’s about all for now. Jerry will be covering Monday’s game.
Rick Adelman's wife and son wiped away tears in the moments after the Timberwolves' 107-101 victory over Detroit placed their coach in that exclusive club of now only eight men who have won 1000 NBA games.
Adelman got hugs and congratulations from his players when they finally got him to that threshold, just 24 hours after the same opportunity slipped away with a home loss to Toronto.
This time, the Wolves took an 11-point, first-half lead and hung on all the way to the end, even though the Pistons got back to even and create many nervous moments in the game's final minutes.
Adelman wrapped an arm around his wife Mary Kay as a video tribute played on the big overhead scoreboard and then he addressed the crowd in a special post-game interview with team play-by-play guy Dave Benz conducted on the court.
In the press room after that, Adelman talked at length about the evening's meaning, particularly the chance to do it at home with his wife in attendance.
Here's the game story from Saturday, with many of his comments.
There also should be video up by morning of his post-game presser.
A couple other quick things:
* Ricky Rubio had his left shoulder wrapped in ice after the game.
He hurt it in the third quarter after colliding with Brandon Knight and was in obvious pain.
Asked if it'll be all right, he said afterward, "I hope so."
Rubio missed his first 12 field-goal attempts, but made his final one, a crucial one in the final minute that helped keep the Pistons away.
He'll have a couple days to let his shoulder heal: Adelman gave his players Sunday AND Monday off before they fly Monday afternoon to San Francisco to begin a three-game Western trip.
* David Kahn consoled Alexey Shved at his locker after the game.
The rookie guard played less than four minutes Saturday after playing eight minutes against Toronto.
He obviously has struggled here down the stretch of a long NBA season that he's experiencing for the first time.
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