DENVER – Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic played nearly 28 minutes — including the final 6½ — in Saturday’s victory at Sacramento, but both he and coach Rick Adelman worried afterward about incurring the wrath of head athletic trainer Gregg Farnam because they exceeded Pekovic’s preset playing-time limit.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Pekovic said. “He’s going to get mad.”
The Wolves outlasted the Kings that night, before holding off the Nuggets 132-128 on Monday to end their five-game road trip. Pekovic arrived at Pepsi Center saying he felt fine, even though he knows he will experience pain during games because of bursitis in his right ankle.
“I feel good,” he said before Monday’s game, when he had 16 points and nine rebounds in nearly 24 minutes. “I’m not sore, you know? I’m probably going to have some pain. But if I’m not sore the day after, I’m good to go every night. I just hope it’s going to keep going like that. I can handle that amount of pain, maybe more. For me, it’s important I’m not sore. If you play with some pain and then the next day you’re sore, you have a problem because you can’t do anything.
“Yesterday was good, today was good. I just hope it stays like that until the end of the season.”
Pekovic started his second consecutive game Monday, as did shooting guard Kevin Martin, who returned Saturday after missing three weeks because of a fractured thumb.
Pekovic is supposed to be on a 20- to 22-minute time limit, but Adelman said the cumulative time isn’t as important as the duration of the stretches Pekovic plays. Adelman wants to limit him to five or six minutes at a time.
Turnabout is …
Martin and Pekovic have returned for the Wolves, so it’s probably only fair that Denver got star point guard Ty Lawson back for Monday’s game.
The Nuggets went 1-8 without Lawson, who fractured his rib in a Feb. 8 game at Detroit. Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said he expected Lawson to be a “little rusty,” but he didn’t look it. Wearing a protective vest, Lawson had 31 points on 11-for-16 shooting and 11 assists before fouling out.
The Wolves ended their longest road trip of the season going 4-1 rather than 3-2 thanks to their clutch free throw shooting. Adelman said his team should know the importance of the difference between the two with the West’s eighth and final playoff spot still well in the distance.
“We’re in a situation where our run is right now,” Adelman said. “We’ve got to put ourselves in a situation to be competitive. We’re still out looking in. There’s no given … I told our guys today it’s not a matter of being satisfied now. You’ve got to go out and take it. All you can do is you’ve got to win games to put yourself in position so if you have a shot, you can bust through. If you stay back where we are now, time gets short.”
When the Wolves needed a clutch three-point shot to win at Sacramento on Saturday, they turned to … Ricky Rubio?
Yes, the team’s reluctant shooter attempted only three shots — only one of them a three-pointer — until he stepped up and delivered a clutch three with 53 seconds left that proved instrumental in the Wolves’ closing 11-4 run.
“The more of those he can make, the better off he’s going to be, the more confidence he’s going to have,” Adelman said.
And perhaps vice versa.
“That’s good for us and good for Ricky,” Wolves forward Corey Brewer said.
• Injured center Ronny Turiaf and healthy Robbie Hummel were the Wolves’ two inactive players Monday.
• Adelman on star Kevin Love’s February, when he averaged 34 points, 14 rebounds and three three-pointers a game: “It was one of the best months I can remember anybody having. Now it’s a new month. We have to build off what we did at the end of February.”