The Timberwolves lost for the eighth time in their first nine games Wednesday to Cleveland, but discovered a lineup near game's end that coach Randy Wittman liked and vowed to revisit because he grew unhappy with his other options.
Wittman turned to a group that included previously little-used Gerald Green and rookie Corey Brewer. He watched the Wolves scratch back from a 13-point, third-quarter deficit to pull within four points in the fourth quarter. LeBron James put the game away with his 45 points and 6-for-10 three-point shooting.
Brewer didn't play until the final 96 seconds of the third quarter, a disciplinary matter for being late to the team's shootaround that morning. He then played the entire fourth quarter along with fellow reserves Green, Greg Buckner and Antoine Walker.
While they played, starter Rashad McCants, who also struggled in a seven-point outing in a 100-82 loss to New Orleans in his previous game, played just 23 minutes after shooting 5-for-16 from the field and committing three turnovers.
"You know what? I've got to find at least five because we have to play with five," Wittman said. "Right now, when we get punched in the mouth, we quit instead of throwing something back."
That's why, according to Wittman, McCants played only the first four minutes of the second half.
"He's got to continue to play, we've got to continue to play," Wittman said. "I've been in this league 25 years and very seldom does everything go right for you in the game. Very seldom."
Four of the team's five starters -- McCants, Ryan Gomes, Michael Doleac and Marko Jaric -- didn't play a second in the final quarter.
So Wittman relied on one starter, Al Jefferson, and those four reserves. The only other player to appear in the fourth quarter was Craig Smith, for about two minutes.
Wittman considered those he played down the stretch willing to slug back.
"I thought the group at the end did that," he said. "We threw haymakers. Some of them hit. Those guys have to be the guys that play."
Point guard Sebastian Telfair missed Wednesday's game because he was in New York to attend his grandmother's funeral. He is expected to rejoin the team in Denver today.
Green scored 13 points in 20 minutes Wednesday after he played just 16 minutes in three of the team's first eight games.
"What I've been doing in practice came through in the game," said Green, a third-year player acquired from Boston in last summer's Kevin Garnett trade. "I just try to relax, try to take the right shots, try to be aggressive."
Green got little previous playing time because of his poor shot selection.
"The reason he wasn't getting more minutes was he was taking a lot of bad shots and he was getting down on himself," Jefferson said. "Whatever it was, he decided to put that out of the way and we need more of that from him. Gerald came in and gave us high energy, real high energy."
|Miami - LP: T. Koehler||5||FINAL|
|Washington - WP: M. Scherzer||7|
|Arizona - WP: J. Collmenter||13||FINAL|
|Colorado - LP: T. Matzek||7|
|San Diego - WP: I. Kennedy||9||FINAL|
|San Francisco - LP: C. Heston||1|
|Cincinnati||2||Top 5th Inning|
|NY Yankees||1||Top 5th Inning|
|Philadelphia||1||Top 5th Inning|
|Baltimore||0||Bottom 4th Inning|
|Arizona||1||Top 5th Inning|
|Tampa Bay||2||Bottom 4th Inning|
|Los Angeles||0||Bottom 1st Inning|
|Cleveland||0||Top 1st Inning|
|Detroit||1||Top 1st Inning|
|Oakland||0||Bottom 1st Inning|
|Texas||0||Bottom 1st Inning|
|Chicago Cubs||0||Top 1st Inning|
|Seattle - R. Elias||9:05 PM|
|LA Angels - C. Wilson|
|LA Clippers||8:30 PM|
|Montreal||0||2nd Prd 11:53|
|NY Rangers||0||1st Prd 1:31|
|Los Angeles||8:30 PM|
|Real Salt Lake|