Hard-hitting defeat leaves another Wolves bruise

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 11, 2012 - 9:29 AM

The Wolves came away losers, and guard Chase Budinger came out of a pile with an injured left knee.

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Bulls center Joakim Noah passes against Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic

Photo: Nam Y. Huh, Associated Press

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CHICAGO - After the game ended at the United Center, Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman was exasperated, the locker room was quiet and Chase Budinger was on crutches.

Saturday's game against Chicago started with Brandon Roy on the bench because of a sore right knee. It ended with an 87-80 Bulls victory and with Budinger making his way down the hall, slowly, after having his twisted left knee X-rayed.

It never ends.

Kevin Love's hand, Ricky Rubio's knee, J.J. Barea's foot, Roy. Now this.

"I don't understand it," Adelman said. "I just don't know. I thought maybe it was just Minnesota. But it's on the road, too. It doesn't matter where we play. Now the other guys have to step up."

How many times have you heard Adelman utter that phrase in his year-plus at the Wolves' helm? With players getting hurt almost nightly, having a three-game winning streak ended by the defensive-minded Bulls seems almost a secondary issue.

"Chase has been playing so well," guard Luke Ridnour said. "So we're just praying that it's nothing serious and he can get back soon."

The injury occurred midway through a brutally physical fourth quarter. The Bulls, protecting the basket like madmen (they had five fourth-quarter blocks) held a 78-70 lead when Dante Cunningham's 16-foot shot was blocked by Taj Gibson. In the ensuing scrum, Budinger -- who had started in place of Roy -- was hurt. Adelman thought his player had been pushed. Budinger, who initially didn't speak with reporters, spoke briefly with NBA.com as he was leaving for the team bus.

"It was one of those crazy plays where my foot got stuck," he said. "It got tangled up. I felt my leg twist. ... The injuries are tough. It's frustrating because I've never had a knee problem [like this]."

X-rays showed nothing abnormal, according to the team. Budinger is scheduled to have a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Sunday in Dallas.

Bottom line is the Wolves better hope Roy and Barea return quickly.

For much of the game the Wolves stayed with the Bulls, who were without injured guard Derrick Rose. Center Nikola Pekovic had 18 points, Andrei Kirilenko had 11 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Cunningham had 18 points off the bench.

But in the end it was attrition and the Bulls defense that took the toll. That and the fact that two of the five Chicago players in double figures were reserves: Nate Robinson scored 18 points and Marco Belinelli 11.

Entering the fourth quarter the Bulls were up by four points thanks to Marquis Teague's driving layup at the buzzer.

But in the final 12 minutes, the shots came hard for the Wolves. They shot 7-for-23 in the quarter, hit on one of five three-point tries and had five shots blocked in a game that got very rugged.

"That's the way they play," said Pekovic, who scored only four of his 18 points in the second half. "But we knew what to expect. We played good tonight, played hard all the way to the end. If you have to lose, you want to lose like this."

It was still a five-point game with eight minutes to play when Cunningham hit an 18-footer. But the Wolves were outscored 10-5 over the next 5 1/2 minutes, during which the Bulls blocked two shots.

Chicago went up 82-72 with 2:34 remaining on Gibson's 5-footer. The Wolves got within five points twice, but got no closer.

Now everyone will wait to see what Sunday's test shows.

"Everyone says [injuries] are a part of the job, but I don't know," Pekovic said. "I hope it's nothing serious."

  • CHICAGO 87, WOLVES 80

    Up next: 7:30 p.m. Monday at Dallas Mavericks • TV: FSN (830-AM)

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