The NBA: Howlin’ but Ailin’ Wolves

Luke Ridnour and the Wolves are finding ways to win
despite the myriad of injuries.
(image by Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Before the season even started, the Minnesota Timberwolves knew they would have to go a long time without the dynamic duo of Ricky Rubio (ACL) and Kevin Love (broken right hand).

Seven games into the young season, the Wolves have to make do without three other guys – JJ Barea is nursing a sprain, Brandon Roy’s left knee is sore, and Chase Budinger tore his left meniscus.

Still, that didn’t stop them from downing the Dallas Mavericks, 90-82, thanks mainly to Nikola Pekovic scoring 20 points. The Montenegrin, however, went down late in the third period and didn’t return. The diagnosis indicates Pekovic sprained his left ankle.

That’s SIX players, SIX impact players, to say the least, out for an extended period of time.

And somehow, Minnesota is still enjoying a winning record. The Wolves are at 5-2, which is good enough for second in the Northwest right behind the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are on a 5-game winning run. Up next are the Charlotte Bobcats and the Golden State Warriors. Both should’ve been easy pickings for a relatively healthy Minnesota quintet, but with their second-best post player out as well, things aren’t looking good.

Despite the long list of players in sick bay, though, returning forward Andrei Kirilenko believes his team’s character will be enough to carry them.

''I credit our character,'' Kirilenko said. ''Nobody really looks down and nobody feels sorry. Everybody just keeps coming out and trying to give their best.

Aside from character, defense is also something that has made the Wolves so menacing. As of this writing, Minnesota is #2 in the league in both points allowed (88.4 per game), opponents’ FG% (40.8%), and opponents’ assists (18.4 per game). In their Dallas game, the Wolves limited the Mavs to a season-low 36.3% shooting.

As good as his wards have been playing, however, Coach Rick Adelman hopes he can get some of his contributors back.

''I don't know when it's going to stop,'' Adelman said. ''Hopefully we can get some guys back and maintain the same energy level we've had.''

Of course, even if his stars take some time to recover, Adelman still has some other weapons. Kirilenko and fellow Russian Alexey Shved have been doing well this season. AK47 is his old all-around awesome self, norming about a dozen points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and almost 2 steals per game. Oh, he’s also shooting better than 57% from the floor. FIFTY-SEVEN PERCENT. Who does that?! Shved, who is coming off a great performance in the FIBA World Championships, scored a season-high 16 against Dallas (he played 33 minutes, also a season-high), and with the spate of injuries, he should continue to see a rise in playing time and production (I can see Fantasy bulbs light up!).

The long and short of it is the Wolves are ailing, but they’re still howling as loud as ever.

Game Recaps (courtesy of the Sports Network):
Milwaukee 105, Philadelphia 96
Brandon Jennings poured in a season-high 33 points as the Milwaukee Bucks topped the Philadelphia 76ers, 105-96, on Monday at Wells Fargo Center. Jennings added eight assists and five rebounds, while Monta Ellis finished with 18 points, seven assists and five boards for the Bucks, who improved to 3-0 on the road this season. Mike Dunleavy contributed 13 points and five boards in the victory. Jrue Holiday paced the Sixers with 25 points and six assists, but turned the ball over eight times, while Jason Richardson returned to the lineup after missing four games with an ankle sprain and dropped 20 points. Dorell Wright donated 14 points and Thaddeus Young added 11 points and seven rebounds in the setback.

Brandon Jennings's strong play continued as the
Bucks downed the streaking Sixers.
(image by Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images)

Utah 140, Toronto 133 (3-OT)
It took three overtimes, but the Utah Jazz eventually prevailed over the Toronto Raptors, 140-133, to pick up their first road victory of the season. Al Jefferson hit game-tying shots to send the game to a first extra period and then a second. He scored 24 points and pulled down 17 rebounds, while Paul Millsap scored a team-high 34 points. He drained clutch 3-pointers in each of the extra periods for Utah, which had lost its first four road games. Toronto squandered an 11-point fourth quarter lead to drop its fourth straight contest. DeMar DeRozan scored a game-high 37 points on 16-of-33 shooting, but the Raptors were outscored 15-8 in the final overtime.

Oklahoma City 92, Detroit 90
Russell Westbrook scored 14 of his game- high 33 points in the fourth quarter as the Oklahoma City Thunder rallied to take a 92-90 victory over the winless Detroit Pistons. Westbrook also had 10 rebounds and four assists, while Kevin Durant had 26 points and nine boards for the Thunder, who won their fifth straight. Kevin Martin finished with 13 points and Serge Ibaka netted 11 with seven rebounds and six blocks in the victory. Rodney Stuckey had 19 points and Greg Monroe added 17 for Detroit, which is off to the worst start in franchise history at 0-8.

Boston 101, Chicago 95
Rajon Rondo finished one rebound shy of a triple-double on Monday, as the Boston Celtics downed the Chicago Bulls, 101-95 at United Center. Rondo poured in 20 points, handed out 10 assists and pulled down nine rebounds for the Celtics, who had lost their last five visits to the Windy City. It was Rondo's 31st consecutive game with 10-or-more assists, which is the longest streak since John Stockton turned the trick in 37 straight games from Feb. 27-Nov. 29, 1989. Luol Deng scored a game-high 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Joakim Noah added 17 points and 11 boards for the Bulls, who wrapped up a five-game homestand at 2-3.

Miami 113, Houston 110
LeBron James scored 32 points in the second half and the Miami Heat rallied late for a 113-110 win over the Houston Rockets on Monday. James finished with 38 points for the game. He also hauled in 10 rebounds and dished out six assists. Miami trailed the entire fourth quarter until James scored on a layup with 18 seconds left to play, giving the Heat the lead for good. Chris Bosh also tallied a double-double, finishing with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Dwyane Wade chipped in with 19 points, seven assists and six rebounds in the victory. Chandler Parsons led the Rockets with 25 points and James Harden had 22, but he missed a potential game-tying 3- pointer at the end of the game for Houston, which has lost four of its last five games. Omer Asik finished with a double-double, scoring 19 points and grabbing 14 boards in the defeat for the Rockets, who are still playing without head coach Kevin McHale, who is away from the team for family reasons.

Minnesota 90, Dallas 82
Nikola Pekovic netted a team-high 20 points and pulled down six rebounds as the Minnesota Timberwolves knocked off the Dallas Mavericks, 90-82, on Monday at American Airlines Center. Andrei Kirilenko finished with a double-double on 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Alexey Shved also added 16 points for the Timberwolves, who are off to their best seven- game start (5-2) since they won six of their first seven in 2001. Luke Ridnour and Dante Cunningham chipped in with 15 and 14 points, respectively, in the victory. Darren Collison scored a game-high 21 points and O.J. Mayo added 18 in the setback for the Mavericks, who fell to 4-4 on the season.

Phoenix 110, Denver 100
Goran Dragic scored a game-high 21 points and dished out seven assists to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 110-100 win over the Denver Nuggets on Monday. Shannon Brown scored 19 points off the bench and Michael Beasley added 16 for the Suns, winners in three of their last four. Markieff Morris chipped in with 13 points, six rebounds and five assists while also adding a key defensive play late in the fourth quarter to help secure win. Andre Iguodala scored a team-high 17 points and pulled down nine rebounds and JaVale McGee added 16 for the Nuggets, who had a four-game winning streak snapped.

Atlanta 95, Portland 87
Josh Smith poured in 19 points and pulled down 11 rebounds as the Atlanta Hawks escaped with a 95-87 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday at Rose Garden. Kyle Korver scored 16 points on 5-of-8 from the floor, Al Horford added 15 points and 10 boards and Jeff Teague contributed 13 points and eight assists for the Hawks, who snapped a brief two-game slide. Louis Williams donated 11 points and four steals in the triumph. J.J. Hickson netted 19 points and ripped down 18 boards, while Nicolas Batum contributed 19 points and seven rebounds in the setback for the Blazers, who have lost four straight. Wesley Matthews donated 17 points, including 10- for-10 from the free throw line, in defeat.

Despite the strong play rookie Damian Lillard,
the Blazers have struggled mightily.
(image by Don Ryan/AP)

Top 10 Plays of the Night:

Game Highlights:

Next Post »
0 Comment