Home crowd sees more wait-and-see ball

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 24, 2007 - 12:21 AM

A half-full house at Target Center went home still mostly uninformed about the retooled team's personality.

About an hour before the Timberwolves played their first preseason game at home, guard Greg Buckner was asked how he liked the Twin Cities.

"Don't know yet," he said, noting he'd only been in town a total of about six days in the past month. "Let me get back to you on that."

It would appear, after the first Timberwolves game at Target Center in the post-Kevin Garnett era, that the fans might feel the same way.

In a relatively quiet arena that held more empty seats than fans, the Wolves -- minus injured point guards Randy Foye and Sebastian Telfair -- lost 106-95 to an Indiana Pacers team playing without many of its best players.

And so the feeling is that it's hard to draw any conclusions as the preseason draws near an end.

"We have 10 days left," Wolves coach Randy Wittman said after bemoaning his team's lack of defensive pressure at the start of the game. "Ten days and one preseason game. We've got to tighten it up. ... We still don't understand everything we're trying to do."

Without two of his top point guards, Wittman still is experimenting with combinations. But some things were pretty clear on the first night Minnesota fans could, as the team's slogan goes, see what they can do:

• Al Jefferson continues to show he'll be making a statistical, and physical, impression on most nights. During the first quarter he and Theo Ratliff led a rebounding barrage on the offensive end that brought the crowd to life. Jefferson had seven rebounds (four offensive) and 10 points in the first quarter and finished with 27 points and 17 rebounds in a whopping 40 minutes.

Still, he's learning on the go, too, trying to add the center position to his repertoire. It's not an easy job: One could see some of the frustration when he and Marko Jaric exchanged words after a third-quarter turnover.

"We have a long way to go," Jefferson said.

• Without their point guards, the Wolves are still prone to dry spells with their halfcourt offense.

Tuesday the Wolves turned the ball over 17 times, an improvement over recent games. But the dry spell still hurt them when the Pacers ran off 12 consecutive points on the way to a 58-45 halftime lead.

The Pacers led 62-48 early in the third when Jefferson's six points led a 15-1 surge that tied the score at 63. Rookie Corey Brewer's steal led to a Ricky Davis slam dunk midway through the quarter.

But the Pacers responded by finishing the quarter with a 20-10 run, and led by 10 entering the fourth quarter.

• Brewer can play, but there will be rites of passage. Take Tuesday, when he struggled, early, to cover Danny Granger.

"They call it the NBA for a reason, OK?" Wittman said.

The Wolves made one more run in the fourth. Down 91-79, a lineup that included many of the Wolves' new faces, pulled within six points a couple of times but couldn't complete the comeback.

Of course, a grain of salt needs to be taken with all of this, given the injury situation. Chances are Wittman will continue tinkering even after the Nov. 2 season opener.

  • INDIANA 106, WOLVES 95

    Up next: vs. Milwaukee (exhibition finale) • 7 p.m. Friday • Target Center • No TV (106.1-FM)

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