Timberwolves backup center Ronny Turiaf has a radial head fracture in his right elbow. Turiaf will not need surgery, and he will be re-evaluated next week to establish an approximate timetable for his return. Turiaf injured his elbow in the second quarter of Friday night’s victory over Oklahoma City, when he fell and hit the Target Center floor hard.
Turiaf will likely miss at least a few weeks of playing time. The diagnosis came after a magnetic resonance imaging exam was performed Saturday morning.
That means Wolves coach Rick Adelman is back to adjusting his rotation only two games into the season. Replacing Turiaf will be a difficult thing to do. Turiaf, who accompanied the team to New York, is a strong defender and a vocal leader.
“Ronny was playing so well,” Adelman said. “It’s unfortunate. I’m glad it’s not anything serious. He’s done a nice job for us. He’s got experience. He can be on the court and you may look at the stat sheet and say he didn’t do much. But he really does a lot. Hopefully he’ll get back quickly.”
Until then, rookie Gorgui Dieng will get a baptism of fire.
“Obviously G will get his chance,” Adelman said of Dieng, the 21st overall pick in the 2013 draft.
Dieng will get the first opportunity to back up Nikola Pekovic. Adelman said he might slide Kevin Love into the five spot on occasion.
“We don’t want to do that as a consistent thing,” Adelman said. “I like doing it at the end of games, because it forces [the opponent’s] hand. Plus, you don’t want him playing against guys who are going to attack him in the post. It’s not his strong suit. Hopefully Pek and G can do it. G was a little nervous [Friday] night. But he has played and he’s done a decent job. I think the more he plays, the better he’ll be.”
Adelman also can use Dante Cunningham in spots against smaller lineups.
Dieng got his NBA regular season debut Friday. He finished with zero points and four personal fouls in 14½ minutes of playing time.
The Wolves built an 18-point lead against Orlando on Wednesday, then let the Magic come all the way back and then some before they finally won in overtime. But Friday, they led Oklahoma City by 22 points in the second quarter and never let the Thunder get back in the game. The difference?
“The other night was a learning experience,” Wolves veteran guard Kevin Martin said. “We got too cool [against Orlando]. We know Oklahoma City is a much better team and they have the best scorer in the league. We stayed focused and made them work for everything.”
Adelman cautioned the Wolves’ unbeaten start is only two games, but Friday’s unexpected defensive performance against Kevin Durant and the Thunder begs a question: What could this offensive-minded team accomplish if they can play defense like that every night?
Martin called the prospect “beyond words” and suggested it could be a “fantastic” season.
For a second opinion: “It’s going to be some long nights for other teams if we play D like that.” forward Corey Brewer said. “We’ll be a tough team to beat. If we play defense the way we did [Friday], we’ll win a lot of games.”
And a third: “I can’t tell,” point guard Ricky Rubio said. “You saw great game. If we can defense like that every night — it’s going to be hard, it’s going to be difficult, but if we can do that — we can do big things.”
• Adelman said forward Chase Budinger, who has been rehabbing his surgically repaired knee out of town, could return to Minnesota as early as next week.