Rick Adelman began to roll his eyes before the question was finished.
His team had just concluded a 3-1 road trip — the most victories by the Timberwolves on a road trip since December 2005 — by beating a beat-up Chicago team 95-86 Monday night.
And then, the question: So, now that you’re back to .500, is it time to …
“We’ve been there and done that all year long,” Adelman said, shaking his head.
The coach didn’t want to hear it. He had just like to see it, finally. Since the day before Thanksgiving, the Wolves have dallied with a winning record but haven’t closed the deal. Ten times the team has entered a game looking to poke its head above .500, only to lose. The most recent attempt was Saturday, on the back end of a back-to-back, when the Wolves lost to Portland.
So now, past the halfway point in the season and still three games out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, they will try to do it again. “This is what we’ve done to ourselves all year long by losing all those close games,” Adelman said. ”But now we have to try to build on something going home.”
That chore got a little more difficult Tuesday, when a magnetic resonance imaging exam on center Nikola Pekovic’s sore right ankle revealed bursitis in the joint. Pekovic will be withheld from basketball activities for seven to 10 days, then re-evaluated. That means Pekovic would miss, at minimum, the team’s next three games and possibly more. He is listed officially as being out indefinitely.
Ronny Turiaf figures to pick up the lion’s share of Pekovic’s minutes; Turiaf scored 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting with seven rebounds in the Wolves’ victory over the Bulls. First-round draft pick Gorgui Dieng also figures to see his playing time rise.
“I’ll do whatever I’m asked to do,” Turiaf said after his most productive game in three years. “It’s whatever happens, happens. If I’m asked to play and do more, I’m more than happy to do so.”
For the 11th time, the Wolves will try to break through that .500 barrier, this time against a New Orleans team also dealing with injuries to players such as point guard Jrue Holiday and forward Ryan Anderson, the Pelicans’ top two scorers in a Jan. 1 loss to the Wolves.
Of the previous 10 attempts at a winning record, the Wolves have lost six on the road, four at home. The losses have come against strong teams — Oklahoma City and San Antonio twice each and Portland once — but also lamentable losses to Boston and a beat-up Los Angeles Lakers team.
But perhaps the Wolves are getting closer. They ended a streak of losses in close games by winning 121-120 at Golden State on Friday, part of their most successful road trip in years. Both Turiaf and forward Chase Budinger appear to be hitting their stride after missing extended time earlier this season because of injuries.
“Hopefully we can build off this,” forward Kevin Love said. “We know it’s going to be a battle, but at least we’re back in front of our home fans now. … I don’t want to speak too soon. But hopefully we can keep piecing this thing together.”
After home games against New Orleans on Wednesday and Memphis on Friday, the Wolves play at Atlanta on Saturday. Then, starting Feb. 4, the team plays four games in five nights.
So if there is a time to finally get a run going, it could be this week.
“We have to play at a certain level game in and game out,” Adelman said. “If we do that, we’re going to start winning our fair share of games. We’ve been up and down. Win one, lose one.”