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.
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.’’
From Rachel Blount, making an appearance today as the Wolves reporter:
Timberwolves guard Kevin Martin was in good spirits Friday, when he spoke to the media for the first time since he had surgery to repair a broken bone in his right wrist. Fresh from a medical checkup that showed the wrist is healing well, Martin said his recovery from the Nov. 19 injury will be “a slow process,’’ but he was glad to be back among teammates and friends during a shootaround at Life Time Fitness.
As the depleted Wolves prepared for Friday night’s game against Houston at Target Center, Martin said he thought he had only sprained his wrist during a 37-point performance in a victory over New York. Instead, he will spend the next six weeks monitoring the mending of a broken bone. Martin, Ricky Rubio (sprained ankle), Nikola Pekovic (sprained wrist) and Ronny Turiaf (sore hip) remain on the shelf; Mo Williams (back spasms) is listed as questionable for Friday’s game, and Shabazz Muhammad (sore left ankle) was upgraded Friday morning to probable.
The bone Martin broke is the same one he broke in his left hand in 2009. He anticipates a more challenging recovery this time around, he said, because the injury is to his shooting hand.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays along, since it is my shooting hand,’’ Martin said. “I do remember (with) my left, there was a lot of soreness. But I don’t have a left hand anyway, so I didn’t really need that. But with the right, it’s going to be a little tougher rehab. I’ll have to put in a lot more time with this one.’’
As he recovers, Martin plans to spend plenty of time around the team, and he is providing advice to young players trying to fill the void left by the rash of injuries. He said he spoke with rookie Andrew Wiggins on Friday morning and urged him to be aggressive, saying he would rather see him go three-for-20 than four-for-eight. While Martin said it’s impossible to predict how the increased minutes and responsibility will affect the progress of the younger Wolves, he told them to keep forging ahead despite the hardships.
“I think I can give them a little leadership,’’ Martin said. “But at the end of the day, it’s going to be them. I’m not going to be out there with them. I talked to Andrew this morning, and a couple other guys. If they think this is the toughest thing that’s going to happen to them in their careers, then they’re going to have a pretty good career. This won’t be the lowest point for them through their career. But they can always learn from lessons like this.’’
Martin expects the stitches to be removed from his wrist next week. Until then, he said, his physical activity is limited to walking.
The Rockets are banged up, too. Dwight Howard has missed seven games with a strained right knee and is doubtful; Pat Beverley (strained left hamstring), Isaiah Canaan (left ankle sprain) and Terrence Jones (left leg nerve inflammation) won’t play.
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.
I’m guessing this won’t be the last time I will write about Wolves rookie Andrew Wiggins being honored.
Wiggins was named as the NBA’s Western Conference rookie of the month for November.
Wiggins becomes the sixth player to win the award. The others: Gorgui Dieng (March 2014), Ricky Rubio (January 2012), Kevin Love (March 2009), Randy Foye (December 2006) and Stephon Marbury (January 1997).
Wiggins averaged 11.6 points (second among league rookies behind Milwaukee’s Jabari Parker), 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 15 games, all starts. Among Western Conference rookies Wiggins was first in scoring, steals and minutes played, second in blocks and third in rebounding.
He led all rookies in three-point shooting (44.0 percent).
“I think he’s had a solid month,” Wolves coach Flip Saunders said. Still, like any coach, Saunders will say it hasn’t been perfect. Saunders said he continues to encourage Wiggins not to waste minutes on the floor, to play hard all the time. “I want him to run harder,” Saunders said. “I know that’s something he can do.’’
That said, Saunders praised Wiggins on-ball defense. A skill that, in many ways, is the hardest for a young player to learn at this level.
Wolves rookie Andrew Wiggins is the cover feature on this years's best-of edition of Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine. The edition hit the stands last week.
Meanwhile, the Wolves return home to play the winless 76ers hoping to NOT be the team that ends Philly's streak. I will be covering that game, so I'll get back to you guys after Wednesday morning's morning shoot.
Here's a link to the article:
Have a good day.
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