SALT LAKE CITY – The Timberwolves lost yet another player to the injured list on Monday when they played at Utah without shooting guard Kevin Martin and his ailing hamstring.
Meanwhile, rookie forward Andrew Wiggins just keeps on going.
Wiggins confessed months ago, admitting that a demanding NBA schedule three times the length of anything he has played before is wearing him out. Maybe that's why his teammates had taken to calling him "Sleepy."
Still, here he is, one of only two Wolves players — Gorgui Dieng is the other — who has played in all 69 games this season and has the chance still to finish the 82-game season with perfect attendance.
"Knock on wood," superstitious coach Flip Saunders said.
And Wiggins is quite aware of it. "Yeah, it's my goal," he said, before playing nearly 49 minutes and scoring 22 points in a 106-104 overtime victory over the Jazz. "My coaches told me that's a big accomplishment. If you play 82 games your rookie year, you should be proud of that. That's what I aim to do."
He has done so while his teammates seem to drop beside him.
"That's something we talked about a month ago," Saunders said. "That's something he has thrived on. In this day and age when there are a lot of players not looking to play 82 for different reasons, that says something about his character and what he's trying to do."
Wiggins is averaging 35 minutes a game — nearly 38 a game since just before Christmas — and it shows sometimes.
"Every night is a learning experience for him and he is tired," Wolves assistant coach Sam Mitchell said. "He's playing a lot of minutes and he is a rookie. ... He is getting mentally tougher. He is learning how to push through, and that's part of the process."
Time to improvise, again
Reserve point guard Lorenzo Brown started at shooting guard when Martin was scratched because he's concerned about both of his hamstrings.
That left the Wolves with nine men out when Ricky Rubio, Kevin Garnett, Gary Neal, Nikola Pekovic, Justin Hamilton and others didn't play. The predicament caused Saunders to use newly signed guard Sean Kilpatrick before the first quarter was done.
On the road back
Hamilton went to Rochester's Mayo Clinic on Monday to see a neurologist, seeking clearance to play after he was kneed in the back of the head against Brooklyn last week. Saunders said the headaches Hamilton suffered in the days that followed have gone away. If cleared, he could perhaps play Wednesday against the Los Angeles Lakers at Target Center.
Saunders also said Garnett's knee is growing stronger, and left open the possibility that he could return after missing the past six games to play against the Lakers.
Anthony Bennett (sprained ankle) has improved noticeably the last few days and Saunders said the team is targeting a return for him Sunday in New Orleans.
Garnett again watched the game from the team's locker room Monday, a custom he has done much throughout his career when he wasn't in uniform and one he has continued the past few games. Before that, he sat on the bench in uniform with his new teammates and coached and cajoled them, even if he didn't play that night.
Saunders said he and Garnett discuss before each game where he should be. Saunders said Garnett's famed intensity makes it difficult for him to just watch.
"I like him out there at times, but he has been so beneficial both before games and in the locker room at halftime," Saunders said. "I think he has trouble just sitting there at times."