Finally, midway through the preseason, Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman had everybody -- besides Ricky Rubio -- healthy, ready to play together on the court. So let the chemistry experiment begin.
In a 114-81 victory over Israeli team Maccabi Haifa at Target Center on Tuesday night, Adelman was able to put Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Love, Brandon Roy, Luke Ridnour and Nikola Pekovic on the court together; Love's elbow was fine, Kirilenko's hamstring ready, Ridnour's back OK. And in one game -- Adelman played his core group, together, for nearly 30 minutes -- you saw both the potential and the work that needs to be done.
After a first half that clearly irritated Adelman with its forced shots, misses and turnovers, the Wolves' 39-point third quarter showed some impressive offensive execution.
"The second half they were much, much better," Adelman said. "I thought Andrei makes a big difference. We just have to get used to playing with each other."
Even in the first half, there were moments -- two first-quarter fast breaks, for example, both involving Love and Kirilenko.
But in the second half, there were more. Kirilenko, in patented fashion, spilled himself all over the stat sheet with 13 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block while shutting down Donta Smith, Haifa's best player. Love had 24 points and eight boards. Roy had 19 points. The trio of Love, Kirilenko and Roy combined for 56 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists.
But even during that third quarter, when Roy scored 14, Kirilenko 10 and Love nine, while the Wolves were shooting 61.1 percent, forcing eight turnovers and getting to the free-throw line 15 times, there was room for improvement.
"The spacing has to be better," Love said. "A few times, Roy got the ball and he wanted to go left and I was in his way. But that's just being on the floor together more."
In all, six Wolves players scored in double figures, and the bench combined for 45. But it was the top end of the rotation that was the story of the night.
"You could see in the first half we had to work through some kinks," Roy said. "But in the second half our tempo got better."
And, with three preseason games left, it should get much better still. "There is always going to be some little issues," Kirilenko said. "But we're getting a better and better feeling for each other."
Haifa was led by Pat Calathes and Paul Stoll, who scored 17 points each.Last one back
With Love, Kirilenko and Luke Ridnour all back Tuesday, second-year guard Malcolm Lee is the only Wolves player besides Rubio who didn't play.
He didn't play with the Wolves' Las Vegas Summer League because of knee issues that sidelined him for much of last season, and he injured his groin muscles running during training camp in Mankato. He resumed practicing on Monday.
"It's really frustrating," Lee said. "It seems like once I get over something, something else always pops up. But it feels good, my groin feels good. My knee feels good. I'm ready to go."
As for Rubio, recovering from surgery to a torn knee ligament, the point guard was taking jump shots after Tuesday's shootaround.Inspirational
Already new Wolves forward Lou Amundson has established himself as something of the team's free spirit: He sports a ponytail and plays the guitar.
He might even inspire Love to learn to play the piano. "We're not going to be starting a boy band anytime soon," Love said.
Love's uncle is, of course, Beach Boys singer Mike Love.
"I want to learn, definitely want to," Love said. "I figure that musical gene is in there somewhere. It's something I want to pick up. It opens up a whole other section of your brain."
Staff writer Jerry Zgoda contributed to this report.