A Friday night crowd and the Timberwolves equipment manager came prepared for Rick Adelman’s 1,000th NBA career coaching victory. Instead, Target Center patrons were reminded once again of their team’s recent draft history in a 95-93 loss to Toronto.
Adelman’s search for No. 1,000 — still stuck on 999 and counting — must wait, as will that commemorative jersey that was readied with, well, you guess the number sewn on it, after the Wolves were beaten in part by a player they bypassed in the 2009 draft.
That awaited celebration will wait until Saturday night’s game against Detroit at least because DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay and the Raptors prevailed Friday, beating the Wolves for the 16th time in the past 17 games but winning themselves for only for the second in their past nine.
Gay and DeRozan combined on the wing for 51 points, an output that overcame a Wolves team that attempted twice as many free throws (40-16) as the Raptors did and led by 11 points in the third quarter.
Still, the Wolves lost by two points because they missed three of their final six attempts in the game’s last 1 minute, 53 seconds, including Ricky Rubio’s game-tying free throw that rattled in and came back out with 1.7 seconds left after he had already made one.
“I think Coach well-deserved this number, but we can’t just go in thinking we’re going to get it easy,” Wolves forward Andrei Kirilenko said. “It takes a lot of effort, and I think we have effort, but not enough focus, especially in the fourth quarter.”
They also did not have enough size to handle the 6-7 DeRozan at shooting guard and the 6-8 Gay at small forward.
DeRozan’s driving three-point play with 2:13 remaining put the Raptors ahead to stay at 92-90, a lead that stood when Rubio missed two free throws and Kirilenko one in those final two minutes.
The Raptors selected DeRozan ninth overall in 2009, when the Wolves had two top-six picks and took Rubio fifth and Jonny Flynn sixth.
Rubio, of course, is getting better with every game for the franchise that waited two seasons for him to arrive in 2011.
Flynn plays now in Australia. On Friday, DeRozan scored 25 points at a position for which the Wolves still seek a permanent solution four years later.
“When I think about it, it’s crazy,” DeRozan said when asked about being bypassed by the Wolves. “But everything happens for a reason. I could have been drafted here.”
When DeRozan exploited his size advantage over the Wolves’ small backcourt, Adelman moved Kirilenko off Gay and onto him. Then Gay exploited the matchup with Dante Cunningham assigned to cover him.
“It’s hard because we usually play small,” Rubio said. “They had two big guys like that. They can score and play physically. We don’t have two AKs.”
But Adelman might have held up that commemorative jersey Friday anyway if the Wolves had made their free throws. Unlike a recent game against the Lakers when he didn’t get the call, Rubio was sent to the free-throw line after he rushed down the floor with his team trailing by two. He made the first, missed the second.
“The fault was mine,” he said. “It’s something I need to improve, and I’m going to keep working.”
So Adelman and the Wolves will wait until Saturday, at least.
“He deserves it,” Rubio said. “We wanted to do it as soon as possible. It couldn’t be today. I hope it’s tomorrow. It’s hard to lose like that. It’s something that we wanted to win so bad.”