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.
Greetings for a final time from Target Center, where the Wolves just lost by 20.
I guess losing, again, is not surprising considering the Wolves’ injury situation; tonight coach Flip Saunders started his 27th different lineup of the season, a franchise record.
But, even so, this was a listless loss. The defense was again lacking, especially in the lane. I know all the big men are hurt. But giving up a 29-6 run from late in the second quarter into the third is hard to accept.
That said, there were a few memorable Wolves moments, all supplied by Andrew Wiggins, including his second-quarter dunk on Jazz center Rudy Gobert.
Here are some thoughts from the game:
--Chase Budinger, off the bench, was again impressive tonight. From start to finish no other Wolves player matched Budinger’s intensity, at either end of the floor. Budinger had 14 points and seven rebounds to go with two assists and a steal.
--Zach LaVine also had his moments. Yes, he struggled with his shot (7-for-19). But he scored 21 points with five rebounds and six assists. And, in more than 43 minutes played, LaVine only had two turnovers. That is progress.
--It was a tough night for Adreian Payne, easily his most difficult with the Wolves. He was 0-for-7 shooting, didn’t score a point and had just five rebounds in 32 minutes oa playing time. And he had four turnovers.
--The Wolves continue to get to the line, getting 27 free throw attempts tonight compared to 18 for Utah. Leading the way, again, was Wiggins, who was 7-for-9 on free throws.
--To give you an idea how dire the Wolves big man situation is, Budinger and Robbie Hummel came off the bench to lead the team with seven rebounds each.
That’s about it for now. Jerry will have the team Wednesday.
Greetings from Target Center, where the Jazz and about half the Wolves roster will play in a few minutes.
Perhaps the newsiest note to come out of the pre-game meeting with Wolves coach Flip Saunders was this: Center Nikola Pekovic, who has battled ankle soreness for years now, will not play again this season. That means he ends this season, his fifth , having played in a career-low 31 games.
That’s 37.8 percent.
Through five seasons Pekovic has appeared in 259 of a possible 394 games, or roughly two-thirds. But that includes his first season, 2010-11, when he played in 65 of 82 games. In the four years since? Just 62.2 percent. The last two seasons that number has dropped to 51.8 percent.
Saunders would not elaborate on Pekovic. When he was asked when the decision was made to sit him for the rest of the season, he told reporters to talk to the team’s medical people, something reporters are not allowed to do.
Also out tonight: Gorgui Dieng, who has concussion-like symptoms. Kevin Garnett and Shabazz Muhammad are both home sick. Kevin Martin is listed as available, but I bet he doesn’t play. Gary Neal, Pek and Ricky Rubio are also out.
Justin Hamilton will start at center.
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you after the game.
Anthony Bennett and Robbie Hummel have been cleared and are available to play today at New Orleans.
Their returns mean the Wolves had to let the 10-day emergency hardship contract of guard Sean Kilpatrick expire without renewing it for another 10 days.
Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Kevin Garnett and Gary Neal won't play tonight, but Flip Saunders there's a chance Rubio could play tomorrow against Utah at Target Center.
Garnett is still ill -- has been for the last several games -- and isn't expected at the arena this afternoon.
Hummel hasn't played fracturing his right shooting hand in Jan. 25 game at Atlanta. That night he said he hoped to be back to four to six weeks. It took considerably longer and today he said he probably underestimated how long it'd take to get the right feeling back in a hand immobilized for so long.
Bennett hasn't played since the first game back after All-Star break because of a sprained ankle/calf injury sustained Feb. 20 against Phoenix.
Both Hummel and Bennett said they're not sure how their conditioning is but they'll each find out quickly probably. Each also said they also just hope to see these final 10 games to find their playing rhythm again.
Wolves coach Flip Saunders took a detour on his way to Houston for tonight's game against the Rockets: He stopped in Cleveland Thursday instead to visit his ailing father and scout the NCAA regional that included Kentucky and top draft picks Karl-Anthony Towns and WIllie Cauley-Stein.
He was not at the team's morning shootaround at Toyota Center but is expected in town this afternoon in time for tonight's game.
Nikola Pekovic and Gary Neal did not make the trip to Houston. Ricky Rubio and Kevin Garnett are here but are not expected to play.
Neither is Kevin Martin, who said his strained hamstrings should be better and good to go by next week.
Anthony Bennett, Shabazz Muhammad and Robbie Hummel remain out as well.
The Rockets are banged up as well: Donatas Motiejunas (lower back) is questionable, Patrick Beverley (wrist sprain), Terrence Jones (collapsed lung) and Kostas Papanikolaou (ankle sprain) are listed as out, but center Dwight Howard is back for his second game after he missed 22 games because of swelling in his knee.
Greetings for a final time from Target Center, where the Wolves lost the battle but may have made some progress when it comes to the war.
What do I mean by this? That Wolves’ rookies Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine took a few more steps in their development tonight, got even more experience in the pressure of overtime games. Plus, the Wolves are still in pretty good draft lottery position.
Here are some thoughts from the game
--After Andrew Wiggins scored a game-high 27 points, coach Flip Saunders said this: “He had a 40-point game at his fingertips. He missed a couple opportunities early.’’ In my opinion, Wiggins could have been given a few more calls as well.
--What an interesting game by Zach LaVine. On the one hand, he was aggressive from start to finish, got to the line when it counted. But he also slipped up a bit late on defense. And he had another four turnovers tonight.
--Center Gorgui Dieng also has battled the turnover bug lately. He had six tonight, and has averaged three TOs per game over his last five games.
--Chase Budinger continues to play better and better. He scored a season-high 22 points tonight, on 9-for-14 shooting, hitting the corner three that forced overtime. He has hit multiple three-pointers in consecutive games for the first time this season.
--More Wiggins: He has scored 20 or more points in 23 games this season.
That’s about it for now. Jerry will be with the team on the road.
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