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, the Wolves might gotten a break on the second half of these back-to-back games while tonight's opponent has been waiting at home in Houston since Wednesday:
Rockets star James Harden won't play tonight because of a sore foot.
Point guard Jeremy Lin will start in his place beside starting point guard Pat Beverley.
The Wolves clobbered Brooklyn last night and rested their starters the entire fourth quarter before making the two-plus hour flight south after the game to play their fourth game in five nights once again.
"Well, he's their best player," said Wolves guard Kevin Martin, who returns to the Toyota Center arena where he played nearly four seasons with Rick Adelman as his coach. "Anytime your best player sits out, other guys step up. When he's out, they play pretty good. THere's more shots to go 'round for everyone else."
By the way, Wolves rookie Shabazz Muhammad is available after missing the last five games because of a sprained ankle. That doesn't, of course, mean he'll play.
What an interesting game that was.
I don’t know how many of you remember the game played here between Boston and the Wolves in late March of 2012. Kevin Love had had a monster March. There was talk about whether he might eventually be the best forward named Kevin to play here. And then Garnett and the Celtics came to down, Garnett clearly out-played Love, and then did a little trash talking on the way out of town.
Two seasons later, Love got at least a measure of revenge. This time Garnett, now with a Brooklyn team that, already old, is riddled with injuries, got out-played by Love. And it was Garnett who lost his cool, throwing a forearm at Love early in the third quarter, got called for a flagrant foul and a technical foul, then watched the Wolves use that to kick-start a 16-0 run that put the game away.
Here are some thoughts on the game:
--The Nets’ plan tonight was to not let Love get the ball. They never left him, not on pick and rolls, never. As a result the Wolves played off Love much of the night, and all five starters scored in double figures. Love, who had a career-high 11 first-quarter rebounds, scored his first nine points on second-chance opportunities and finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds.
--Ricky Rubio got into early foul trouble, but rallied to score 12 points with eight assists.
--It was a fun night for the Wolves bench, which played the entire fourth quarter. It scored 35 points. In all, 11 players played and scored. Perhaps all that rest the starters got – Love (31:21) was the only player to play more than 30 minutes – will help them tomorrow in Houston.
--The Wolves played very good defense tonight, holding the Nets to 39.7 percent shooting and forcing 20 turnovers, which resulted in 22 points.
That’s about it for now. Jerry will pick up the team tomorrow in Houston. Have a great weekend.
--Greetings from Target Center, where the Wolves are about to try to end a two-game losing streak against a banged-up Nets team missing three starters and a top reserve.
--First, here is a statement from the Wolves organization on the passing of Vern Mikkelsen:
“The Minnesota Timberwolves organization is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Minneapolis Laker and NBA Hall of Famer Vern Mikkelsen. During his playing days at Hamline University and the Lakers, Vern was a dominant force on the court and one of the game’s great power forwards. Vern was a great friend to our organization and we offer our condolences to his family.’’
--I asked Wolves coach Rick Adelman – who was a 12 or 13 when Mikkelsen finished playing, if he was a fan of the Lakers growing up. Not until they moved to Los Angeles, he said.
--Meanwhile, it appears we made be about to watch Kevin Garnett’s final game on the Target Center floor.
“He’s been a great player,” Adelman said. “He plays with such dedication, and he works so hard. That’s why they’re a dangerous team. They can put a game together. He’s been terrific for so many years. What can you say about him? All Star all the time, MVP of the All Star game when I coached him. I think he really energizes his teammates.”
--This is yet another pretty big game for the locals, playing on the front end of their second back-to-back this week. The team will board a plane to Houston after tonight’s game.
“You can’t slide backwards, the schedule doesn’t get any easier tomorrow. This is a big game for us.’’
And it’s winnable. The Nets are without Jason Terry, Brook Lopez, Andrei Kirilenko and Deron Williams. The Wolves need to come out and put this one away early.
--One final thought: I believe Kevin Love, who is coming off a tough shooting day Wednesday, is primed for a big one tonight.
That’s about it. I’ll get back to you after the game.
Kevin Garnett was back at Target Center this morning, and once again drawing a crowd.
He was one of the relatively few healthy Brooklyn Nets who were at the team’s shootaround this morning. (The Nets, by the way, will be without guard Deron Williams (ankle), forward Andrei Kirilenko (back), center Brook Lopez (ankle) and guard Jason Terry (knee) for tonight’s game with the Wolves).
The Nets are struggling to find a rhythm, with so many new faces and so many injuries making it difficult for them to get to know each other. The Nets are 3-8, 1-6 on the road and have lost three straight overall heading into this game. The Wolves, meanwhile, have lost two straight.
But back to Garnett, who, along with Paul Pierce and Terry, were traded from Boston to Brooklyn during the off-season.
“It’s always good to come back to Minnesota,” Garnett said, surrounded by both New York and Twin Cities media members. “The Twin Cities have always been like a second or third home. Always enjoyed the fans here.”
Garnett had nice things to say about the Wolves, calling Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love one of the best 1-2 punches in the league. He called the Wolves “electrifying.’’
“They play with a real fast pace,” Garnett said. “Kevin Love is in an unbelievable groove…. They’re playing with a lot of confidence. And trying to slow any of these guys down is going to be a task for all of us tonight.’’
But Garnett deflected any questions about where he is at in his career. When asked if he has contemplated retirement after this season, he said, “Next question.” A question about whether he could see a scenario in which he finished his career in a Wolves uniform got the same response.
Indeed, Garnett said, he is not thinking much about the past or the future. He’s worried about the present. Namely, trying to get the Nets back on track. “You deal with reality,” he said. “You deal with the current (situation). I don’t think outside of whatever I’m doing at the time. And the focus needs to be (there). ‘’
Garnett said he’s maintained a relationship with Flip Saunders, his coach when he was here and currently Minnesota’s president of basketball operations.
Here’s one final Garnett quote: “There is a lot of emotions that come with this building,” he said. “A lot of emotions that come with some of the stuff that’s in here. But, obviously, different time, different personnel, different times.”
In other items:
--Kirilenko met with Alexey Shved Thursday night. The two players, both from Russia, were very close last season, and Kirilenko said he’s been trying to help Shved through his struggles early this season. The two talk once or twice a week. “He’s in a tough position now, game-wise,” Kirilenko said. “But for young guys he has to use every opportunity. If you play five minutes, go hard. If you play 10 minutes, go hard. Play one minute, go hard. And if you aren’t playing, cheer for your teammates. Be positive and wait for a chance.”
--Kirilenko said he’s happy with the Nets, but admits that he sometimes wishes things had gone differently in the summer. Kirilenko opted out of the second year of his deal with the Wolves – one that would have paid him a little over $10 million – to become a free agent after last season. He rejected a multi-year offer from the Wolves at a lesser salary. Ultimately he ended up signing a two-year deal with the Nets that will pay him $3.2 million this year.
--Kevin Love got two stingers in his right arm during Wednesday’s loss to the Clippers, but said this morning that the arm is fine. “It didn’t affect my shooting,” he said of Wednesday’s game. “It was just an off night. But I feel good today.’’
It will be interesting to see the two Kevins tonight. They last faced each other in Target Center two years ago at the end of March, 2012. Love had played amazingly well in the month and there was talk about whether he might ultimately turn out to be the best forward named Kevin to play for the Wolves. Garnett got the better of things that night, scoring 24 points on 12-for-18 shooting with 10 rebounds in Boston’s 100-79 victory. Love scored 22 with 11 rebounds but shot 5-for-18 that night.
It’s my guess that Love will fare better tonight.
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you just before the game.
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.
|Vikings (12)||Wolves news (876)|
|Bears (1)||Lions (1)|
|Packers (3)||Super Bowl (2)|
|Injury report (1)||On the road (50)|
|Rookies (26)||Roster moves (3)|
|Vikings draft (41)||Vikings trade talk (2)|
|NBA playoffs (1)||Wolves coaches (69)|
|Wolves draft news (50)||Wolves guards (41)|
|Wolves injury report (308)||Wolves management (135)|
|Wolves players (466)||Wolves postgame (270)|
|Wolves practice news (138)||Wolves pre-game (316)|
|Wolves trade talk (77)||Wolves training camp (48)|
|Adrian Peterson (3)||Sidney Rice (2)|