The Timberwolves (25-29) traveled to Sacramento on Monday night for their fourth and final meeting against the Kings (18-34). What a difference a few weeks (and injuries) make. The Pups won the first two games of this year’s season series back at the Target Center but lost badly to the Kings 115-99 two weeks ago. For all of you that were busy enjoying the NCAA National Championship: a) we can’t blame you, and b) here’s a few game notes:
- In a nice gesture, Rick Adelman gave Brad Miller a surprise start at center as a part of his farewell tour. The 35 year old played 6 of his 14 NBA seasons as a Sacramento King. It is remarkable to recall that the seven foot Miller was a 5’11” point guard in his last year of high school and was not drafted by an NBA team following his successful college career at Purdue University. Miller made the most of his start, scoring 11 points in the first quarter on 4-5 shooting, including 3-3 on three pointers. He also added two rebounds and three assists.
- Nikola Pekovic returned to the lineup tonight, providing some much-needed relief in the middle. He was his efficient-self on offense, shooting 7-8 for 17 points in just under 20 minutes of play. It will be interesting to see how they use Pek in the remaining games. His ankles have been more than problematic, and at some point it may be better to shut him down rather than risk further injury. With that said, this Wolves’ team is one that would benefit from a strong push into the offseason (we’re used to hearing that, aren’t we?). With tonights loss, our playoff aspirations are dim, but finishing the season strong could go a long way, especially in developing younger players like Malcolm Lee and Derrick Williams.
- The Kings’ guards proved to be too much for the Pups in the first quarter as Tyreke Evans scored nine points and Isaiah Thomas adding eight points in the first 12 minutes. After one quarter, the Kings lead 33-30.
- The Wolves’ soft defense was on full-display in the second quarter. Sacramento hit the 50 point mark with 5:30 left in the second quarter.
- Jimmer Fredette and Terrance Williams were huge for the Kings off the bench. The Jimmer shot the ball wel in the first half before cooling down (19 points in all), and Williams was making plays all over the court, finishing with 12 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.
- Kevin Love hit his 100th three-pointer of the season in the second quarter, but did little else in the first half. His defense was lacking for the third straight game, and his rebounding effort was modest. It is tough to be disappointed, as he has needed to be perfect for this current roster to have a chance at winning. Regardless, K-Love lead the Pups with only three rebounds in the first half, as Minnesota was out-rebounded by the Kings in the game 46-35.
- Wayne Ellington contributed nine points off the bench in the first half (7 in the second quarter). Unfortunately, that was all she wrote for Wayne – he didn’t score in the second half.
- The second half was much of the same, with each team taking it’s turn holding the lead briefly before giving it back. The Wolves were able to put together some nice runs, but ultimately could not pull out a victory. Most concerning to the Wolves was the loss of Luke Ridnour late in the third quarter. Ridnour landed on Jimmer Fredette’s foot after driving to the hoop and was in visible pain immediately. Replays indicated an ankle sprain of some sort, but the final diagnosis will probably not be known until Tuesday morning. My take: it looked nasty, and I don’t expect to see Luke for a while.
- The injury to Ridnour provides the most interesting talker coming out of this game: where do the Wolves look to for extended point guard play? The offense was clearly out of sync for much of the fourth quarter, but Malcolm Lee has given good effort on the defensive end. It is hard to expect a rookie guard to run the offense fluently having logged so little time on court. I expect Lee to be the starter, with Ellington seeing some minutes as his backup.
- Who would have thought that one of the leagues youngest teams would also be one of the most injured late in the year? We are assuming that Ridnour will miss extended time. JJ Barea seems to be injured at every turn. Our favorite pre-2011 #2 pick (Be-easy) is struggling with an injury to his big toe. Our second favorite pre-2011 #2 pick (Darko) was left at home due to a ‘sore hamstring’ – yep, he’s that far in the doghouse. That leaves us with 5 injured players – NOT counting Pekovic, who played his second game in the last 10 tonight. It’s looking like it will be a struggle just to make it to the finish.
- A thought: it’s ridiculous how many #2 overall draft picks we have on the roster
The Wolves, who have been down on their luck as of late, will play 7 of the final 11 games at home. Next up is a matchup against Golden State Wednesday night at the Target Center.