Wolves audition new roles, get results against Milwaukee

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 27, 2012 - 8:23 AM

Forwards Andrei Kirilenko and Chase Budinger demonstrated go-to potential as front-liners.

GREEN BAY, WIS. - The Timberwolves concluded their preseason schedule Friday with a 100-76 victory over Milwaukee and a better understanding of how they will carry on without Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio when the regular season begins next week at Target Center.

They played Friday without not only Love and Rubio but also without starting point guard Luke Ridnour (family matter, not that herniated disk) and reserve Lou Amundson (back spasms) and they finished preseason play with a 5-2 record after a second convincing victory in three nights.

After beating Detroit by 19 points Wednesday in Winnipeg, the Wolves played without their top two point guards Friday and still recorded 26 assists, moving the ball with precision and defending with a commitment their long- suffering fans might not recognize.

Wolves coach Rick Adelman used this final rehearsal to move starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko into Love's power-forward spot and start reserve forward Chase Budinger at Kirilenko's position.

Budinger responded with his second consecutive 20-point game, and he has made nine of 13 three-point shots in the past two games after going 4-for-5 on Friday.

Kirilenko created some of those open shots with a productive performance -- an eight-point, 10-rebound, six-steal, four-assist, one-block night that statistically looked like many nights during his 10 years in Utah -- from a new position.

"We're shorthanded, but I think we have some flexibility," Adelman said. "You saw the way that team we started tonight played. We're a tough team to guard. There are a lot of things we can do. There are no absolute answers with us, but the one thing we learned about our guys is they come to work every day.

"We don't shortcut. If we can keep doing that, we're going to be fine."

Adelman didn't play starter Brandon Roy at all in the second half to keep him healthy for Friday's opener against Sacramento. He played J.J. Barea, Dante Cunningham and Derrick Williams all measured minutes while giving expanded opportunity to such players as Alexey Shved and Malcolm Lee, who started at point guard and played 33-plus minutes.

Shved had eight of the Wolves' 26 assists, and did so by repeatedly getting to the middle of the floor with the ball while his teammates whirled around him, finding open spaces.

"We moving ball a lot, being unselfish, helping each other with extra screen," Kirilenko said. "That's how we're supposed to play. We really need those guys [Love and Rubio] back as soon as possible, but don't rush. We have guys who are capable to play and capable to play a real team game. We still have a lot of room to improve as team. We're going to get better."

It's going to be hard for Budinger to get much better than the 69.2 percent he shot from three-point range the past two games.

"I feel very comfortable out there," Budinger said. "The best part of A.K. at the 4, he's such a good passer, he's such a good cutter. When he's doing that, it makes my job a lot easier because it gets me wide open for shots."

But of course, Friday still was just preseason. That all changes next week, which is why Roy played less than four minutes in the second quarter and then sat down for the rest of the night.

"We've got a deep team, but preseason is just one step," Roy said. "The real stuff starts now."

The Wolves must submit their final roster by Saturday. They will cut training-camp invitees Chris Johnson and Mike Harris to get to the 15-man maximum. They also will extend the rookie contracts of Rubio and Williams by picking up options for the 2013-14 season on Wednesday, the deadline to do so.

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