– Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic missed his fifth consecutive game Thursday because of that perpetually hurting ankle, and while coach Flip Saunders wouldn’t call him done for the season, he also predicted Pekovic won’t play any time soon.

Remember, 14 games now remain after Thursday’s 95-92 overtime victory over the Knicks.

“He’s probably going to be out for a while,” Saunders said of Pekovic, who also missed 31 consecutive games from November to January because of that right ankle. “I’m not going to say we’re going to shut him down for the year because who knows what could happen, but right now I don’t see him playing any time in the immediate future.”

Pekovic’s absence Thursday left Saunders threatening to promote small forward Chase Budinger from power forward to center because Gorgui Dieng is the team’s only healthy center now that newly acquired Justin Hamilton is out, too. Rookie Adreian Payne was the Wolves’ only other healthy big man.

“I’ve never played center before, anywhere,” the 6-7 Budinger said.

Hamilton missed his second consecutive game because of migraine headaches resulting from when he got kneed in the head Monday against Brooklyn.

Pekovic, Hamilton, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Garnett and Gary Neal all remained out injured Thursday, as did Anthony Bennett, Shabazz Muhammad and Robbie Hummel.

That left the Wolves with just so seven available players, so they had to make a call to nearby Delaware in the D League and summon guard Sean Kilpatrick on a 10-day contract just so they had the mandatory eight players required ready to play.

As for Saunders, he returned to the team after missing Wednesday’s loss at Toronto because he was in Ohio with his ailing father.

Second opinion

The second medical opinion the Wolves sought on Garnett’s ailing knee showed no damage that would require surgery. Instead, he will work to strengthen the knee until he feels ready to play again.

“If he feels good he can play,” Saunders said. “Who knows, he might say Sunday he’s ready to play.”

Garnett played five games with the Wolves after the trade with Brooklyn, but he has missed the last six games.

Rubio dresses down

Rubio did not play Thursday after he labored for 30 minutes Wednesday at Toronto on an injured left ankle, the same one he sprained so severely in November.

He apparently didn’t bring a sport coat on the trip believing he would play both games on the road trip, so the same man who sported such European good taste and style nightly while he was out injured for two months borrowed one from a team public-relations representative.

Impressed by Shved

The Knicks started former Wolves players Alexey Shved and Lou Amundson and brought Bloomington’s own Cole Aldrich off the bench.

Traded three times since August, Shved finally seems to be finding a place on a team after short stays in Philadelphia and Houston. He had 21 points and seven assists in the Knicks’ home overtime victory over San Antonio on Tuesday.

“I’m impressed with his makeup,” Knicks coach Derek Fisher said. “Mentally, it’s not easy to do what he’s doing: Come into a new team that plays a little bit different style than other teams and find his way to success. That starts in the mind and there’s a strong belief in his capabilities that he holds. It’s just impressive to see.”


• Former Wolves coach Kurt Rambis now is the Knicks’ top assistant and graybeard on staff. Literally. He’s sporting a shaggy, uncolored beard that he vows to shave if spring ever comes to New York City.

• The two teams with the NBA’s worst records played Thursday in the metropolis and still Madison Square Garden was filled to the rafters, even if there were some season-ticket seats in the first level empty.