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.
Well, that was interesting.
All people will remember from Sunday’s game is that Kobe Bryant passed Michael Jordan into third place on the league’s all-time scoring list. What I will remember is Bryant, in his 19th season, hitting the game-winning shot on Andrew Wiggins, the Wolves rookie many think has the talent to become a great player himself.
Indeed, after the game was over, Bryant said that, in Wiggins, he saw a younger version of himself. “It’s like looking at a reflection of myself 19 years ago,” he said. “It was pretty cool.’’
I’ll say. Bryant scored 26 points, 10 in the fourth quarter, including a 26-point three-pointer with 1:02 left that broke a 94-all tie.
Here are some other thoughts on the game
--How about Shabazz Muhammad? Wolves coach Flip Saunders said his sore ankle and a sore back nearly kept him out of this game. Saunders said he didn’t know he’d have Muhammad available until 10 minutes before game time. And then Bazz comes off the bench to match his career high with 28 points in less than 28 minutes played. He was 12-for-21 shooting, had nine rebounds.
--It was a tough night for both Wiggins and LaVine. But especially for LaVine. After the game Saunders said he has to convince LaVine to use his left hand when he drives to the basket on the left side. LaVine keeps wanting to go back to the right hands. But, Saunders said, that’s where the big guys are. But LaVine has time. Saunders said it took nearly 60 games into Steph Marbury’s rookie year to get that same point across.
--Wiggins? He started strong, scoring the Wolves’ first six points. Then he started getting into foul trouble, which hampered him much of the rest of the night. At least until late; Wiggins scored six fourth quarter points as well.
--Saunders said he thinks the Wolves defense, while still a work in progress, is getting better. The Lakers shot 42 percent Sunday. That’s better than a few games ago, Saunders said, when teams were shooting 55 percent.
That’s about all for now. Have a great night and a good week.
After trying a number of different approaches to rehabbing his sore right hip, Wolves backup forward/center Ronny Turiaf traveled to New York Sunday, where he will have surgery on the hip Tuesday.
“He’s been trying the last few weeks,” Wolves coach Flip Saunders said. “He’s gone through some different situations to try to rehab that. We came to the conclusion that he’s going to have surgery.’’
Turiaf has appeared in just two games this season, getting one rebound and two assists in 18-plus minutes of playing time. He spent the first five games and the last 14 on the inactive list.
Saunders said more would be known after the surgery – which will be performed by Dr. Bryan Kelly at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York – but that Turiaf will be out a long while. “It’s a matter of if it’s going to be a while or be the season,” Saunders said.
Meanwhile, it appears that guard Mo Williams (back spasms) will miss his sixth straight game tonight.
Greetings on a very wet Sunday.
The Timberwolves did not hold a shoot-around this morning. So we won’t know until before game time tonight whether veteran point guard Mo Williams (back spasms) will be able to play.
The Los Angeles Lakers did hold a workout this morning. Unfortunately Kobe Bryant declined to talk about the milestone he’s almost certain to pass tonight. Bryant (32,284 career points) needs nine points to pass Michael Jordan (32,292) into third place on the league’s all-time scoring list.
For Lakers coach Byron Scott, he’s all for finally getting it all over with. “I mean, when we left for this trip we knew it was going to happen,” Scott said. “It was just a matter of when. And our main focus is to try to keep winning games. So, after a good win in San Antonio (an overtime win Friday), we want to keep that going.’’
One thing you should see a good bit of tonight, especially down the stretch if it’s a close game, is Bryant playing the point guard position. It’s something Scott says he likes and something he plans on doing more of. At the point, he said, Bryant can still create his own shot, but he also has the skill to find the open man if he is double-teamed. And he especially likes doing it if Bryant is guarded by the other team’s point guard, creating a mismatch.
Meanwhile, Scott talked at some length about the first game between these two teams, the Wolves 120-119 victory in Los Angeles Nov. 28. It was, to listen to Scott, one of his team’s worst games this season. “I looked (at the game tape) pretty much right after the game,” he said. “And I wasn’t happy with it, and I let the guys know the next day how I felt about that game. So we have a pretty good idea what we have to do tonight. It will show how we’ve grown as a team. After a big win, do we come in here and lay a big one, or come out and really go after it?’’
The Lakers come in here having won two straight and four of seven since the loss to the Wolves.
In that Nov. 28 game Wolves rookie Zach LaVine came off the bench to score 28 points on 11-for-14 shooting. Bryant admitted LaVine stunned the Lakers with that performance.
“Yes, he did,’’ Scott said. “He played a whole lot better than we anticipated. So won’t say we’ll be giving him special attention. But he got our attention, let’s put it that way.’’
LaVine has been playing a lot of point guard out of necessity. It’s unclear how much he will play the point when the team is completely healthy. But Scott had some very nice things to say about the rookie. He was asked about the comparison some are making between LaVine and Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook.
Does he see similarities? “Yes, I do,” Scott said. “He’s so young, he’s just a pup. Give him a couple more years, then you can probably make those comparisons a little bit more. But right now, from an athletic standpoint, at point guard, I don’t think there is a point guard in this league who is more athletic than him.”
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you with an injury update before the game.
Yes, this is the Oklahoma City Thunder team you know, not the imposters who started the season 3-12 while both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were out.
Both players are back, and were in plenty of time to face the Timberwolves tonight at Target Center.
The Thunder has won four consecutive games since Durant returned five games ago and both players tonight will be playing in the second part of back-to-back games for the first time this season, another step in their recovery from injury.
Durant will be limited to 30 minutes tonight, or so Scott Brooks and the Thunder say.
The Thunder beat a LeBron-less Cleveland team last night at home, so this is the same situation as Wednesday's Wolves' victory over Portland. The Blazers, too, were playing the second half of back-to-back games that night.
The Wolves, meanwhile, tonight will play on without Mo Williams, who will miss his fifth consecutive game because of back spasms. Shabazz Muhammad is expected to play despite that ankle that has pained him for more than a week.
One other tidbit: Flip Saunders said before tonight's game that Ricky Rubio has moved on to the next part of his rehab by getting on the anti-gravity treadmill that allows him to walk and run without putting weight on his legs and healing ankle.
All the injuries have made it rather difficult for coach Flip Saunders to run a normal practice, even when the team actually has time to practice. So he and his coaching staff have gone a different direction. Instead of a full scrimmage-type practice, the Wolves, of late, have done more skeleton-type drills and walk-throughs.
“We do three-on-three, a lot of skeleton stuff,” Saunders said. “You actually get a lot more done. You have a chance to teach more, in a smaller setting with the players, work on concepts more than anything else.’’
Here is the updated injury report:
--Despite a sore ankle that got worse as his playing time went on Wednesday Shabazz Muhammad practiced today and said he will play tomorrow. It hasn’t been easy for him. The ankle has been a problem for a while, but he’s doing everything he can – including acupuncture – to keep himself on the court. Saunders said Muhammad’s energy in the first half Wednnesday really set the tone. But it’s clear that the ankle got worse, as a few missed dunks later on showed. But give credit to the second-year forward for playing through the pain.
--Mo Williams’ back spasms kept him out of practice again today and Saunders said he would not be available vs. Oklahoma City Friday.
-That’s about it for now. Jerry will be with the team tomorrow.
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