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.

Opportunity lost in 103-101 loss at Denver

Posted by: Jerry Zgoda under Wolves postgame, Wolves news Updated: February 21, 2012 - 3:32 AM

Oh, what could have been Monday night in Denver.

The Wolves could have won their fourth straight.

They could have surpassed .500 for the second time this season.

They could have in just 33 games matched the 17 victories they won all season.

More than anything, they could have uttered the `P' word with some conviction.

Yes, that's right:

Playoffs.

A victory would have brought them even with the depleted Nuggets, who are fighting Portland for what will be that eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

All that passed the Wolves by this time with their 103-101 overtime loss in which they led by 14 points in the second quarter, then lost Nikola Pekovic to a sprained ankle and were outhustled, outplayed, certainly outshot the rest of the way, all the way into their first overtime game of the season.

Yet they still could have, maybe should have and probably would have won if they hadn't shot 2 for 16 in the final seven-plus minutes (in the fourth quarter and into overtime), when Martell Webster missed an open three with 52 seconds left in overtime that would have broken a tied game or Luke Ridnour's open layup with 17 seconds left that would have tied the game.

Or if Webster had pulled up for a tying three in the final seconds after he stole the ball at one end and then went the length of the court and slammed it with 1.3 seconds left when the Wolves needed a three, not a two-point basket.

Afterward, he said he was aware of the score and clock and said he wanted to be "aggressive" by driving to the rim in an attempt either to draw a foul and a three-point play or score with enough time left so the Wolves could foul the Nuggets yet again and take their chances with Denver at the foul line.

The most revealing part of his postgame interview was when he said it could have been a "mental thing," implying his missing an open three earlier might have convinced him to pass up the shot and go to the hole.

Rick Adelman seemed mystified afterward, saying coaches had told players in the timeout right before Webster stole the ball that if the Wolves were to get the ball back, they needed a three, not two.

You'll find comments from both Adelman and Webster in the game story from tonight here.

Webster said "most people" probably would have pulled up and shot the three, and he said that's probably what he'd do again if given the chance.

When asked about Webster's decision, Kevin Love said, "He should have pulled up. We had talked about that. It's one of those things probably where he went mind blank for a second. We knew what we needed to do: Get a steal, pull up for a three. One of thoss things where he just messed up."

That, of course, wasn't why the Wolves lost.

There was no guarantee even if Webster had taken the three, that he would have made it, not on a night when the Wolves shot just 36.4 and went 6-for-27 from three-point range but 23 of 24 from the foul line.

The Wolves couldn't stop Nuggets reserve forward Al Harrington (31 points) anywhere but at the free-throw line, where he went 0-for-5 and allowed the Wolves to get to overtime.

And they couldn't contain Denver rookie Kenneth Faried on the board. He was the first Nuggets rookie since Carmelo Anthony in 2003-04 to get 14 in a game and he did Monday, when the Nuggets outrebounded the Wolves 57-50 with big Pek sitting after midway through the second quarter.

Pek stepped on somebody's foot in the first quarter but he said it felt OK as long as he kept playing. When he sat for a breather, it stiffened and grew sore on him and he watched the game from the locker room in the second half after doctors determined he hadn't hurt it more than just spraining it.

He said "it's not so bad" and walked out of the locker room after the game on it.

The test will be Tuesday, when he sees how sore and swollen it is.

When you're carrying 295 pounds, usually even a slightly sprained ankle is always something.

We'll see Wednesday, when the Wolves play Utah at home in their final game before the All-Star break after they take Tuesday off.

It's another chance now to get back to .500 and another game against a divisional foe who they're competing against in the race for the playoffs.

"What we keep talking about is the playoffs are always there," Adelman said. "We've got to go out and close the gap on teams ahead of us. If we can get a run, we're right there. You do have to talk about it. If you have a losing streak of any kind -- seems like everybody is going through that, it seems everybody has injuries or a bad schedule this year. We can't afford to do that.

"We can't get ourselves buried. I think they understand. That's (the playoffs) got to be the carrot that you're looking for when March ends and April begins."

Love said he hopes the team doesn't look back in April and say they wish they had won Monday's game.

One other thing: ESPN's Chris Broussard tonight reported the Lakers are intrigued by Michael Beasley and have explored talks with the Wolves about him for either a draft pick or cash. (I'm guessing that'd probably be a second rounder.) He says the Lakers think they can get Beasley to mature by putting him alongside Kobe Bryant in that winning culture.

It'sstarting to become obvious that Beasley's long-term future isn't here in Minnesota, isn't it? ( I know, I'm preaching to the proverbial choir, right?)

You can find Broussard's blog piece here.

That's it for Monday night from Denver.

If there's news Tuesday, I'll be back on the blog. Otherwise, I'll blog at you Wednesday from Target Center for that night's game against Al Jefferson and the Jazz.

 

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