Taj Gibson did not take full part in Timberwolves practice Tuesday.
According to coach Tom Thibodeau, Gibson “did a little bit” at the team’s workout as the Wolves prepared for Wednesday’s win-and-in game with Denver at Target Center. He is listed as questionable.
Asked if he expected Gibson to play, Thibodeau was noncommittal.
“We’ll see,” he said. “Based on what he did today, we’ll see how he feels tomorrow. If he’s not [able to play] we have more than enough. We just need guys to step up and get it done.”
Gibson left Monday’s victory over Memphis after eight-plus minutes with soreness in his neck. The injury originally occurred Friday in the Wolves’ victory in Los Angeles, when Lakers player Julius Randle fell on his neck.
He spent the following days getting treatment — including chiropractic work — and was able to start Monday’s game. But it quickly became apparent he would be unable to continue.
“It’s tough when you can’t even turn your neck from right to left when you look around,” Gibson said after Monday’s game.
Not having Gibson would be a big problem for the Wolves, who need his rebounding. And, perhaps even more, his leadership.
“To be honest, Taj is the heart and soul of our team,” Jamal Crawford said. “Everybody talks about everybody else, for good reason, but he’s the guy who’s the rock of our team. Knowing Taj. I would put my money that he plays. I hope.”
The Wolves will need his defense in the post, his offensive footwork in the paint and his rebounding. In last week’s four-point loss in Denver the two teams each had 47 rebounds.
But it was the Nuggets’ second-chance points down the stretch — especially after Karl-Anthony Towns fouled out with 1 minute, 46 seconds left — that cost the Wolves. Nikola Jokic’s tip-back with 4.3 seconds left sealed the Denver victory.
“We can’t rely on one or two guys to do the rebounding,” Thibodeau said.
“We need everyone to do the rebounding. The game out there, it ended up to be even [in rebounding totals] but down the stretch we have to do better.
Towns said he expects Gibson, whom he called “a warrior,” to play. But: “Whatever happens happens. He’s got to make sure he’s healthy enough to go.”
Staying on the court
Whether or not Gibson plays, Towns needs to be able to avoid foul trouble, something that has plagued him a bit down the stretch.
In Denver last week, Towns said it was hard to see his team — which was leading when he fouled out — lose that game.
“It was difficult,” he said. “You want to be out there. You feel that you can help your teammates.
“It was hard for me to watch. But I had total confidence in my teammates.”
The key to avoiding foul trouble? “I have to find out [Wednesday].” he said. “I’ve got to watch a lot of film. I’ve got to be better on my technique.”
It will be especially important to have Towns on the floor to counter Jokic.
“That’s the challenge,” Thibodeau said. “I think he’s learning that.
“ Jokic does present problems because he’s going to exaggerate contact. We have to have good body position against him.”
A few boos came from the crowd in the first half Monday, when the Wolves fell behind the Grizzlies by 10 points.
And the boos were noticed by Wolves players.
“I mean, I personally didn’t like it, whatever it is,” Towns said. “But you’ve got to go out there and give them something to cheer about.”
The fans got on the Wolves a bit during some recent home losses, including the one-sided loss to Utah on April 1.
“You hear it,” Crawford said. “Hopefully, those are cheers tomorrow.”
The game is expected to be a sellout.
If it is, that would be the team’s 16th this season, the third most in franchise history and the most since 1991-92.