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 one last time from the Target Center here Tuesday night.
This victory – much needed for a team embarking on a stretch of four games in five nights – was much needed. But did it have to be this hard? In a performance that mimicked and up and down season, the Wolves raced to a 25-point second quarter lead only to see it trimmed to seven once in the third quarter and once again in the fourth.
As a result, both Kevin Love and Kevin Martin – who combined for 63 points – each had to play more than 40 minutes with a date in Oklahoma City Wednesday night.
Here are some late-night observations from tonight’s game:
--I find it amazing that Lakers guard Steve Nash, days away from his 40th birthday – was able to come out after barely playing this season and play nearly 25 minutes. And look good doing it. He only scored seven points, but he had nine assists, and the difference he makes on the court is amazing.
--It was great to see Martin continue his aggressive play. Yes, he went through stretches when his shot wasn’t falling. But he scored 14 first-quarter points as the Wolves built a lead. And he scored six more in the fourth.
--For a fellow whose calling card is defense, I thought Corey Brewer struggled tonight, particularly against Nick Young, who came off the bench to score 24 points, getting to the line 14 times.
--Ricky Rubio scored just four points, but he had 13 assists on a night in which, for the most part, I felt he was pretty effective.
--Center Gorgui Dieng played well before getting hit in the head with an elbow in the second quarter. He didn’t return to the game and said afterward he didn’t have a concussion, despite looking a little woozy after getting hit.
That’s about all for now. Jerry will be with the team in Oklahoma City.
It wasn’t a pretty game. Lots of turnovers and missed shots. But the Wolves, for the first time since Thanksgiving, are a winning basketball team.
So it’s funny that, after it was over, nobody seemed too thrilled by having won. Everyone was already looking forward to Friday’s game against Memphis, which will be a tough test without Nikola Pekovic. But maybe that’s a good thing, a sign of a team becoming aware that bigger things are possible.
Here are some thoughts on the game:
--Against a New Orleans team forced to play small, Wolves coach Rick Adelman was able to use a small lineup that included Love at center and Dante Cunningham at power forward for most of the second half. Cunningham responded with a very strong game. He made six of seven shots, scored 12 points and had six rebounds.
--Ronnie Turiaf started in place of Pekovic. And while he didn’t score like he did in Chicago Monday, he still played some strong defense and pulled down eight rebounds. Still, without Pek, the Wolves found out very quickly how much more difficult things are going to be for Love in the halfcourt offense. Adelman talked after the game of figuring out different ways to utilize Love. We’ll see what he comes up with.
--JJ Bara had another nice night off the bench, with 10 points and six assists. Three players (Barea, Rubio and Love) had five or more assists tonight. Nobody on the Pelicans had more than three.
--After going 5-for-7 for 12 points in Chicago, Chase Budinger was 1-for-5 tonight for three points. Without Pekovic, the Wolves will need to get more out of Budinger going forward.
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you after tomorrow’s practice.
After listening to Wolves center Nikola Pekovic talk about the pain he’s been trying to play through – the pain in his right Achilles tendon that ultimately forced him out of tonight’s game midway through the first quarter – it’s hard not to think this injury might linger for a while.
There was no tweaking of the injury tonight. Pekovic said the pain – he called it a bruise – has been bothering him for a week or more, growing worse by the day. The back-to-back games Friday and Saturday really got to him. “It got really, really bad,” he said. “It just hurt all the time. … I tried to play tonight, but I couldn’t.”
Pekovic will see a doctor Tuesday morning for more tests. It’s possible a tentative timeline for his return could be set then.
Meanwhile, in his absence, Ronny Turiaf had his best scoring night in three years. He was actually kind of amazing tonight, playing the game with energy and gusto that got to the whole team; his block early in the second quarter got the Wolves going to a double-digit lead. Turiaf’s 14 points were his most since scoring 19 for New York in January of 2011.
Here are some other thoughts on tonight’s game:
--Chase Budinger took another step back to 100 percent. He scored 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting. He made his first two three-pointers and he had two very big fourth-quarter baskets as the Wolves kept the Bulls at bay.
--It was also a big night for J.J. Barea. He only scored four points. But he had seven assists and four rebounds. It was his passing that got Turiaf going tonight.
--Ricky Rubio started the game struggling to finish on his shots. But he finished strong. He had one point in the first half, but scored eight in the second half on 3-for-5 shooting.
--It was another stat-stuffing night for Corey Brewer, who scored 11 points with three assists, three steals and two blocks. Interestingly enough, though, he didn’t get a rebound in 35 minutes of playing time.
That’s about it, for now. The Wolves come home to play New Orleans on Wednesday trying yet again to get above .500. I’ll get back to you after tomorrow’s practice. Have a good night.
The NBA this morning issued a statement from basketball ops president Rod Thorn that says last night's officiaiting crew indeed did screw up at game's end.
Here's what Thorn said in the statement: "“Through postgame video review, we have determined that Minnesota’s Kevin Love was fouled on the right arm by Dallas’ Shawn Marion while attempting a two-point field goal. Love should have been awarded two free throws with one second left on the clock.”
Of course, it doesn't do the Wolves any good now, other than for the NBA to say you were right and officials Ed Malloy and David Guthrie messed up big.
It also probably means no fines for Rick Adelman and Kevin Love, both of whom said as much after last night's game.
You might remember the NBA did the same in a game last March when the next day it said Kobe Bryant fouled Ricky Rubio on a crucial call near the end of the game.
Here's the play if you missed it.
And if you missed it from last night, here's Kevin Love's reaction after the game to the call, or no call.
Kevin Love was about to talk with reporters after Saturday’s game when he noticed a Milwaukee reporter wearing a Beavis and Butt-head tie. Love stopped the interview and called over to Nikola Pekovic, asking him to come over, which he did.
“See this?” Love said, pointing to the tie. “This is what I’m going to get you.”
Pekovic responded by mimicking Buttheads signature laugh.
I share this only to point out how loose the Wolves locker room was after the team finished off a back-to- back by beating the lowly Bucks here at Bradley Center.
Beating the Bucks is no big deal. But the Wolves had displayed a frustrating habit of following up a nice win with a listless loss.
Not tonight. Love was very great, Pekovic was very good and the rest of the starting lineup was pretty good, too. Good enough to build a lead so big even a horrible fourth quarter by the Wolves bench couldn’t sully it.
Now the Wolves have a two-game winning streak coming home to play three straight at home.
Here are some thoughts on the game:
--The Wolves bench played very well in the second quarter, but started the fourth quarter a combined 1-for-14. Coach Rick Adelman was forced to put his starters back in.
--Saturday’s game marked just the ninth time in franchise history the Wolves had 100 points by the end of the third quarter.
--Alexey Shved made his first three-point attempt Saturday, then missed his final four.
--Ricky Rubio was just 1-for-5 tonight. But he had a very, very good game despite scoring just four points. He had eight assists and six steals.
--Corey Brewer hit on five of nine shots and three steals of his own today.
That’s about it for now. Have a great rest of your weekend.
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