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.
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.
It doesn't get much easier for the Timberwolves, who tonight complete two games in which their opponents arrived at Target Center a combined 26-1.
Golden State brought a 12-game winning streak to town Monday and then made it 13 straight. Portland arrives tonight 14-1 in their last 15 games.
"I don't think I've seen anything like that before," Wolves coach Flip Saunders.
The Wolves will play again without former Blazer and veteran point guard Mo Williams, who'll miss his fourth consecutive game because of back spasms.
Saunders said before tonight's game that Shabazz Muhammad probably wouldn't have been playing this past week because of a hurting ankle but the already injury-depleted Wolves need him so badly, he continues to play on.
Saunders said Muhammad has received acupuncture treatments in an attempt to get the ankle feeling better.
Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin and Ronny Turiaf all remain out as well, of course.
The Wolves, btw, on Tuesday requested and received another 10-day roster exception for forward Jeff Adrien.
Saunders said he considered adding a point guard to help out rookie Zach LaVine there, but figures Corey Brewer is a serviceable, if not ideal, backup to LaVine and was worried where the Wolves will be if something should happen to starting center Gorgui Dieng.
If Dieng were to get injured, Saunders said the Wolves would have no other real options there, so that's what they kept Adrien on for another 10 days.
Mo Williams will miss his third consecutive game tonight against Golden State at Target Center because of back spasms, which means perhaps another 40-minute plus game from rookie Zach LaVine.
Shabazz Muhammad said after this morning's shootaround that he was headed next door to get a MRI on his hurting and swollen ankle but said, barring anything unforesee, he expects to play with the pain tonight against a 17-2 Warriors team that owns the NBA's best record.
"It feels good, it's still sore but we're down some guys, I'll be fine," he said. "I'm a pretty tough guy. I'll play through it and see how it works out tonight."
Of course, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and Ronny Turiaf also all remain out, although I saw Ricky shooting three-pointers with no crutches or walking boot after the morning shootaround today.
Without Williams, the Wolves will rely on LaVine as their iron-man starter and Corey Brewer as the makeshift backup point guard.
The Warriors arrive with a 12-game winning streak and that league-best record.
I guess with that 17-2 record it's a good thing they decided not to include Klay Thompson in a deal for Kevin Love last summer, huh?
"Apparently," new Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
Greetings for a final time from San Antonio, where the Wolves took a big step backward in a one-sided loss to the Spurs.
What an up and down season, as far as effort goes. Wolves coach Flip Saunders ripped the teams effort in a loss to Philly, and his guys respond with a strong effort in Friday’s overtime loss to Houston.
And then this?
The Spurs were resting two starters and played Tim Duncan only 18-plus minutes. And yet the Spurs basically cruised after a run to end the first quarter.
“You play that way against Houston, and you come in here today? … That’s what’s disappointing.”
Here are some nuggets from tonight’s game.
--Zach LaVine became the fourth teenager to have a 20-point, 10-assist night in the NBA. LeBron James did it (eight times), as did Stephon Marbury (three times) as well as a fellow named Dejuan Wagner. And yet Saunders was in no mood to give anyone compliments. “Somebody’s going to score, even when you’re playing bad,” he said.
--The only players Saunders gave even a little praise to was Shabazz Muhammad, who scored 20 points in 21-plus minutes of playing time, and Anthony Bennett, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
--Saunders said teams have taken to playing very physically against Andrew Wiggins, and the rookie has yet to respond. Tonight Kawhi Leonard was all over Wiggins, who scored six points on 3-for-13 shooting.
--Glen Robinson made his first three-pointer ever tonight. He scored 7 minutes in 12 minutes of playing time.
That’s about it. The team flew home after the game, will have Sunday off and get back at it Monday. We’ll see how they respond. Have a good night, and a good rest of your weekend.
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