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.
And now, Kevin Martin said, we’ll find out what the Wolves are made of.
This is not necessarily a crucial part of the season. It’s too early, there are too many games left. But the Wolves’ poorly-played loss in Washington has now become a two-game losing streak. And the team’s upcoming schedule is scary, to say the least.
Friday the Wolves played hard, but looked tired. Especially Love who, frustrated with what he thought was excessive force on the part of the Clippers, struggled with his shot.
Here are some thoughts on the game:
--Love thought the Clippers got away with too much. But the Wolves did have a big edge, getting 31 free throws to the Clippers’ 16.
--Still, it was a tough game, with the Clippers getting called for two flagrant fouls.
--What a night by Chris Paul. He scored 16 of his 20 in the fourth quarter, personally keeping the Wolves at bay down the stretch, taking time to smile at the Wolves bench a few times while he did it.
--Martin was nearly as good as Paul. He got his first double-double since 2009, scored a game-high 28 points and scored 15 in the fourth quarter on 6-for-8 shooting.
--It has become pretty clear that teams, having done their homework, are not allowing Brewer to get that fast-break pass as much these days. But Love – who had five turnovers – keeps trying.
--Center Nikola Pekovic continued his strong recent play. He scored 20 points on 9-for-13 shooting. Over his last six games he has shot 44-for-64 (68.8 percent).
--There is still work to be done with the Wolves bench, which was out-scored 32-18 tonight.
That’s about it for now. Have a good night.
Kevin Martin is back feeling better and is expected to start tonight against the Nuggets in Denver in an early 7 p.m. Twin Cities start time.
If you're used to 8 p.m. starts from Denver and Utah, this one's an hour earlier because it's in the early time slot for ESPN's Friday night doubleheader.
Shabazz Muhammad won't play tonight -- what are the odds he would have anyway? -- because of a twisted ankle sustained in the fouth quarter of Wednesday's blowout win over Cleveland.
He was dressing back out of his warmups into a shirt and tie 45 minutes before tonight's game and won't be in uniform.
Tonight's game is the fourth in a stretch where the Wolves played five games in seven nights. They finally have two consecutive days off between Saturday's home game against Boston and Tuesday's game at Washington.
Just in case you haven't seen it, Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love a year ago filmed a spot for ESPN's NBA coverage that just began airing on Friday. It takes place in the famous ESPN NBA recreational vehicle.
We’ve all been inundated with Kevin Love stats of late in the wake of his great start. But, for all of them, one stat stuck out. Last night Love scored 33 points with eight rebounds, six assists and zero turnovers. And he only needed 16 shots to get to those 33 points. According to a tweet by @statcenter, no other player in modern NBA history has done a 33-8-6-0 with less than 20 field goals attempted.
Yes, this is another stat might be rather arcane. But I think it speaks to the efficiency with which Love is playing at the moment. He’s second in the league in scoring and I don’t remember him taking too many bad shots.
That, coupled with his willingness and ability to pass the ball, has made him even more formidable.
“He’s really taking that on,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said after today’s practice. “Every good player or great player in this league gets better every year at something new. They just don’t do one thing and that’s all they do. I think that was his next step, to be a facilitator.’’
Love, meanwhile, said he tries hard not to take much notice when folks start comparing him to Moses Malone and the like.
“It’s definitely flattering to hear those names,” he said. “Guys I grew up either watching or studying tape or just trying to emulate in my back yard. But, more than anything, I’m just excited about winning.”
--Yet another stat: There have been seven first quarters in which 38 or more points have been scored in the league this season. The Wolves have four of them.
--Meanwhile, Kevin Martin was back at practice today and is full-go for tomorrow’s game in Denver. He watched Wednesday’s game on TV and said the way the team played may have cured him. “I started feeling better after the first half last night,” he said. “The team made me feel a lot better.’’
-And yet another stat, tweeted out by Wolves play-by-play man Alan Horton last night. Ricky Rubio had a career-high 16 assists last night. Every one of them resulted in either a three-pointer or a shot from within three feet of the basket.
That is making your team better. It’s not like Rubio was picking up cheap assists by throwing the ball to someone for a 17-footer.
“I just liked the way he played last night,” Adelman said. “He picked and chose his spots. He had a good rhythm to the game as far as the flow for us. He got us up and down the court. There’s times when he tries too hard to make something happen. Last night, I think he just saw what was there and he took it and found the right people. He’ll grow and figure that out more and more as the season goes on.”
-- Robbie Hummel proved Wednesday how important it is for a player to be ready when an opportunity comes along, scoring 10 points in his first NBA start with Martin ill.
“I was proud of Robbie,” Martin said. “The journey he took to get here, and then get an opportunity like that? I was a proud big brother for Robbie last night. That’s why you work hard in practice. You could be the 12th man one night and the sixth man the next. You have to be ready for your opportunity, like Robbie was last night.’’
--One final item: The Wolves expect Chase Budinger to return from Florida this weekend so they can monitor his recovery from October knee surgery here. Budinger has been rehabilitating in Pensacola, Fla., and jogging on a treadmill there, but is not yet cleared or close to practicing with the team or playing, president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said.
The Wolves' issues with their second unit just got more complicated: Derrick Williams will not play tonight against Dallas at Target Center because of back spasms.
Williams' absence takes away scoring from a second unit that already is struggling in that area. Backup center Ronny Turiaf is out injured, shooting guard Alexey Shved hasn't played well at all so far and other teams are hounding J.J. Barea because he's the best -- and maybe now only real -- scoring option for the reserves.
Let's see if tonight is the night you finally get a good look at Robbie Hummel or Shabazz Muhammad in something more than clean-up time.
Wolves forward Kevin Love’s big week was rewarded by the league Monday.
Love was named the Western Conference player of the week -- the first such honor of his career -- for games played from opening day through Sunday.
He deserved it. After three games – all Wolves victories – Love leads the NBA in scoring (29.7 ppg) and is second in rebounds (14.7 rpg), free throws made (31) and free throws attempted (39). He has had a double-double in each of his games, increasing his total to 121 in his last 135 games.
Love had 31 points and 17 boards in a season-opening victory over Orlando, including a three-pointer with 10.1 seconds left that forced overtime. He had 24 points and 12 rebounds in a victory over Oklahoma City Friday, then had 34 points and 15 rebounds in Sunday’s victory over New York at Madison Square Garden. It was his fourth straight game of 30 or more points and 15 or more boards against the Knicks. By doing so Love joined Shaquille O’Neal as the second player since 1985-86 to record four straight 30/15 games against one opponent.
Love became the sixth different Wolves player in franchise history to win the award.
Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams was named the Eastern Conference player of the week.
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