For Wolves' post backups, its about the matchups

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 23, 2013 - 9:04 PM

How much Wolves centers Greg Stiemsma and Chris Johnson play depends on opponents' inside players.

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The Clippers' Lamar Odom and the Wolves' Greg Stiemsma tangled after Stiemsma was called for a flagrant foul type 1.

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On Wednesday against Philadelphia, with the 76ers playing with a smaller lineup, Timberwolves center Greg Stiemsma never got off the bench. Friday at Oklahoma City, with the team's starting frontcourt struggling, coach Rick Adelman played Stiemsma for 25-plus minutes, including the entire fourth quarter.

Stiemsma responded with a career-high 13 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots in the 127-111 loss to the Thunder.

Still, he knows he might not play much when the Wolves host Golden State on Sunday. It all depends on matchups and how starter Nikola Pekovic is doing.

"It can be challenging at times," he said of his up-and-down playing time. "But it's our job to always be ready. I'm smart enough to know, too, what the matchups are likely to be going into a game."

Pekovic has had a strong season, but there are some matchups -- particularly against longer defenders -- that don't favor him.

Adelman has Stiemsma and Chris Johnson as backups. Stiemsma is longer than Pekovic, a good shot-blocker who can match up well against certain opponents.

Johnson, at 6-11, is a quick jumper who is good at defending the rim. But his slight frame has made it difficult for Adelman to find minutes for him.

And while it might have seemed that the up-and-down pace of Friday's game would have played to Johnson's strengths, it might have been difficult for him to match up with a player such as Kendrick Perkins.

"I think there is always going to be a chance to play him," Adelman said of Johnson. "I'm trying to figure out the most efficient way for us to win. I didn't play Greg at all [vs. the 76ers].

"I just felt the people we were playing, that was the best chance for us."

Adelman said he will try to find minutes for Johnson, but it will be in specific situations. For example, Johnson might flourish if the Wolves go to a zone, allowing him to protect the rim.

Adelman also likes Johnson's ability to play above the rim on the offensive end. But Johnson won't play against more physical opponents.

Budinger improving

Forward Chase Budinger, 14 1/2 weeks into his rehab from Nov. 13 surgery to repair a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee, will visit his surgeon Monday with the aim of being cleared to intensify his workouts.

Budinger, who has had no setbacks, is still hoping for a March return.

"Hopefully [Dr. James Andrews] will clear me on doing more running and jumping and cutting," Budinger said. "Then, in two weeks, maybe a week, however long it takes my knee to get comfortable, I'll start practicing."

Budinger said he feels more comfortable, especially with his shot. He has shown elevation while shooting after practices. "It's still a struggle to run and to jump off that leg," he said.

The biggest issue, he said, has been regaining his strength. "The structural thing is more landing, and I really have no pain with landing right now," Budinger said.

Moving on

There were a handful of moments Friday when Ricky Rubio appeared visibly annoyed at the officials, either for fouls called on him, or foul calls he couldn't get.

Saturday, he was more philosophical.

"Sometimes refs can make mistakes just like we do," he said, smiling. "We just have to get through it. They don't listen to me. I'm still a rookie in this league."

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