The Wolves lost needed scorer Rashad McCants because of a sprained ankle 11 minutes into the game, never to return on a night when his team once again built a big, early lead it couldn't keep and once again was overwhelmed by the free-throw discrepancy.
The Wolves led 13-4 after four minutes, trailed by as many as 16 points early in the fourth quarter and scratched within a basket with six minutes remaining before veteran Orlando shooter Rashard Lewis finished off what blossoming, young teammate Dwight Howard had started.
From the Associated Press:McCants, the Wolves' leading scorer this year with an average of 18 points, was hurt when he drove the baseline and was tangled up with two Magic players under the basket.
After shootaround, head coach Randy Wittman told us he thought Theo Ratliff would play. Well, he's not playing, due to the flu. Unfortunate, too, because Dwight Howard is going to be tough to deal with tonight for Jefferson (starting at the five), Gomes (starting at the four) and Craig Smith off the bench. So, the starters are: Telfair, McCants, Greg Buckner, Gomes and Jefferson.
The Wolves' Al Jefferson had a difficult time guarding Howard. At one point in the second quarter, Jefferson purposely fouled Howard about six feet from the basket before Howard even had a clear shot. Then Jefferson tried to draw a charge against Howard by flopping, but that didn't work.
Jefferson clearly was overwhelmed by Howard, a bigger and more physical center. It was a difficult test.
Also from Alonzo:
Center Al Jefferson scored 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the Wolves' 111-103 loss to Orlando. He said he was thrown off because Orlando didn't double-team him much compared with opponents in the first two games.
Another thing I feel the need to mention is the play of team scapegoat Marko Jaric. The stats look nice with 10 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds in the game. Certainly, this is the best game from Jaric in awhile, but I want to give him credit for a different reason. On two occasions in the first half, Jaric was able to find rookie Corey Brewer for three-pointers. Hitting those shots early helped to build Brewer’s confidence, although his stats did not run away very much after hitting those shots.
You can also read Litel's game blog at Hoopsworld.no comments
Wolves coach Randy Wittman said this morning he expects to center Theo Ratliff, who missed Monday’s practice because of flu-like symptoms, to start tonight against young Orlando star Dwight Howard in the middle. Gerald Green, suffering from an infected toe, is a game-time decision as to whether he sits on the bench most of the night or all of the night.
Van Gundy mentioned how much he respected Al Jefferson in the paint, talked about never underestimating an NBA team and discussed how Hedo Turkoglu has been able to be effective of late. He also ruled reserve guard J.J. Redick out for the evening.no comments
Click here for the tonight's game thread in the forum.
Henry at TrueHoop on Britt Robson's recent KFAN interview:
But the last part of me thinks this: Kevin McHale, if you didn't have the players and coaches you thought could do your bidding well then go out and get some who will. Get your "smashmouth" players already.
And you know what? I think he did. He made one of the boldest trades in NBA history, and got himself an old-school smashmouth scorer in Al Jefferson. The roster is super-young. But this might be the first time in a long time that the roster, the coach, and front office are all roughly on the same page. It might not be nearly as fun as making the Western Conference Finals with Kevin Garnett. It might not even be smart. But at least it's somebody's vision, and not just Kevin Garnett and his ever-changing patchwork quilt of sidekicks.
Louis Anastasis/The News-Journal on Chris Richard:
That's not to say Minnesota doesn't appreciate Richard's game; far from it. Wittman loves his physical play. And vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale, a former legendary forward with the Celtics, tutors Richard after every practice.
Dick Scanlon/The Ledger on Chris Richard:
Minnesota has him listed at power forward and center.
"I need to learn both spots because I'll be playing the five (center) except when Theo (Ratliff) or Mike (Doleac) are in the game," he said. "I have to learn two positions at the same time. In college I just played the five and that's it.
"The hardest thing to me has been the adjustment to the referees and learning the defense. Offense is offense, but the defense here is completely different. All the principles are the opposite of what we learned in college."
Players such as Eduardo Najera and Ryan Gomes make huge impacts on their respectiveteams. Without players doing the dirty work, life becomes harder for the stars on the court.no comments
Kent Youngblood/Star Tribune previews tonight's game against Orlando.
Mike Trudell/Timberwolves site and assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff discuss tonight's matchup
The Wolves, who play host to the Orlando Magic tonight at Target Center, are shooting 54.5 percent in the first quarter while holding opponents to a measly 31.8 percent from the floor. Conversely, they have been outshot 70 percent to 42.2 in the second quarter while being outscored 47-34 in the fourth.
Yet no statistic is more revealing than the disparity at the free-throw line. The Knicks took 29 more foul shots Sunday night than the Wolves, who only have 39 free-throw attempts to their opponents' 77.
When the Timberwolves play host to Orlando tonight, chances are Howard and Jefferson will find themselves pushing and shoving one another up and down the Target Center court much of the time. Nothing new there. These two guys know each other pretty well. Both are sons of the South, both graduated from high school the same year, both opted for the NBA draft the following spring, both got picked in the first round, with Howard going first overall.
The Wolves move up to #29 in this week's ESPN Power Rankings.
If the Wolves can play as hard in the next 80 games as they did in the first two, who knows? Maybe the die-hards in 'Sota who've been stripped of their beloved KG will develop a bit of a soft spot for the new kids.
From DLIC/Free Darko:
In this sense, can't we again lessen the blame on McHale for the Wolves' struggles? McHale is old school, tough, and he played to punch people in the mouth. That was his vision for the team that never emerged. Similarly, Isiah is trying to build an organization in correspondence with his status as a player: Zeke is doing anything he can to get ahead, continuously adjusting on the fly, snatching up malcontents who just want to score, anything to get a few more points on the board. Bottom line is: Just because RC Buford got creative and started sending scouts to Tajikistan, it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with McHale and Isiah being trapped in Reaganomics basketball.no comments
He doesn't sound good so we sent him home. I hope (he will be able to play tomorrow), but if it's the flu you don't know. We'll just have to see. Gerald (Green) has got an infected toe; he didn't practice today.
Team officials said Ratliff was suffering from flu-like symptoms; Green has an infected toe. It’s not known whether either player will be available for a home game Tuesday...no comments
–Craig Smith, Ryan Gomes and Al Jefferson are beastly. When they lift, the weights should say “underappreciated” on them. Jefferson ate Zach Randolph for breakfast—quite a role reversal, I know—in the first quarter. Getting ahead of myself here, but if the Wolves can land a Derrick Rose or OJ Mayo in next year’s draft, the young beasts in the Target Center will be on point. Literally.
–Really, I just wish Bassy could a freaking jumpshot. I’m pulling for him and I feel bad for him because it would make his life so much easier and his future a lot less European.
Mike Trudell/Timberwolves site talked to the Vikings Adrian Peterson during the Wolves home opener:
The Wolves are playing good team basketball. They definitely have some guys that can score and put some points on the board. I've noticed that, but this is my first game so I'm just enjoying it.
The Vikings Dwight Smith on whether he was surprised by the Wolves early run in the first game of the season:
No. When you get a bunch of young guys together you expect to see exciting basketball. We all knew Rashad McCants could play. It’s all about confidence when you get to this level because everybody’s basically the same talent.
Telfair said he had a chance to sign an extension after being traded from Boston, but opted to play out this year.
Mike Dougherty/Journal News on last night's game:
I can’t even begin to describe the lost expressions of Antoine Walker.
He was sitting a couple of feet away from us, and probably wishing he was 1,000 miles away on a beach. Or maybe just a couple of blocks down 34th Street at the McDonald’s drive thru window. Seriously, he didn’t look happy in a very limited role.
From Alan Hahn/Newsday:
Minnesota outrebounded the Knicks 41-34. "That was as strong of a rebounding team, all around, that I have probably played against in my three years in the NBA," Lee said.no comments
Big Al Jefferson cashed in at the 11th hour, agreeing to a five-year deal with the Timberwolves for $65 million. The deal starts at $11 million in 2008-09 and rises $1 million annually for the five years. As if that's not enough, an industry source indicated there also are bonuses that could add another $1 million per year to the salary, although the league has deemed them not likely to be attained. Unlikely bonuses are usually things like playoff bonuses, viewed as unlikely given Minnesota's performance last year (and, most likely, this year as well).
Britt Robson/On The Ball comments on the last two games. Also:
Sound observations from others: Jim Petersen commented about how sluggish the pace became when Marko Jaric subbed in as point guard for Telfair. Pete also ripped Jaric for perpetualy whining attitude and unhappiness over his role on the team. And KFAN/Vikings/Canterbury voice Paul Allen pointed out the nastier enforcement edge the Wolves seemed to be adopting after a flagrant foul by Jaric was followed by a hard foul by Buckner.
The Wolves placed the injured Randy Foye and Mark Madsen and rookie Chris Richard on their inactive list for the game. Madsen has practiced with the team fully for almost a week and Wittman said his game return from summer shoulder surgery is "around the corner."He's another guy who brings energy," Wittman said.
Antoine Walker talks to Bob Sansevere/Pioneer Press about being a "big fried chicken guy," stealing honey buns from a store as a child, and his former coach:
(Miami Heat coach) Pat Riley is a real stickler for body fat. It's a different kind of system he runs. I was very disappointed that it got out in a negative light like that, that people would think I would come into camp out of shape. (Riley suspended Walker briefly last season over his body fat measurement, and he held Walker out of the first day of training camp last month for the same thing.)
Stephen Litel/Hoopsworld interviewed Ryan Gomes before Friday's home opener.
Timberwolves Today has posted episode #5 of the Kissing Marney Gellner podcast.
Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman said he can't imagine what New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas is dealing with. But Wittman told Thomas, a longtime friend, before Sunday night's game that he is there for him.Wittman and Thomas played two seasons together in college at Indiana, winning a national championship in 1981. Their ties run strong.
Marcus Thompson II/Contra Costa Times on owner Glen Taylor's recent interview with the Pioneer Press:
Taylor's execution left a little to be desired, but the idea was one that should be adopted by all owners. Never mind that Garnett, Saunders and Billups may have different memories -- "Yeah," Billups told the Detroit News, "I don't remember it happening like that." -- the fact that Taylor was willing to at least give his side of what happened is nothing short of refreshing.
“Absolutely, this is the best place to play,” Wolves coach Randy Wittman as he surveyed the empty sections of differently colored seats at the team’s morning shootaround. “No better setting to play in here, no better place to win in here. Nothing like it.”no comments
Ryan Gomes scored 19 points for the Timberwolves, who fell to 0-2 in their first season since trading longtime star Kevin Garnett to Boston over the summer. The Wolves had won four in a row and 10 of 12 against New York.
Al Jefferson, also acquired in the Garnett deal, added 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Ahead by 10 points in the first quarter, down by eight with five minutes left in the game, the Wolves pushed the Knicks to the final shot on a night when the free-throw disparity was 39-10 in attempts and 30-6 in shots made.
Also from Zgoda:
32 Consecutive minutes Antoine Walker sat on the bench before he entered for a potential game-tying three-pointer that missed in the final seven seconds.
That the outcome was in doubt during the final seconds despite a huge free-throw disparity speaks to the Wolves' solid play in other areas.
Stephen Litel/Downtown Journal on the game.
Timberwolves Today has a post-game audio wrap up.no comments
Ten game tickets and big, fat opportunity await Timberwolves point guard Sebastian Telfair tonight when he returns to New York City and Madison Square Garden to face his hometown Knicks and cousin Stephon Marbury.
Click here for a preview of tonight's game at New York.
Jefferson doesn't see it as a one-man show, and basketball is a team sport. But now that he's the highest-profile member of a group that lacks stars, fans will expect him to play well when it matters most. One knock against Garnett was that he couldn't deliver late in the fourth quarter.
To avoid a similar label, Jefferson must be consistent throughout the grind of a six-month season. And beyond that, he must make key plays and hit big baskets when the outcome is in doubt. He doesn't have much experience playing that role because his first three years in the NBA were spent watching Boston's Paul Pierce taking the clutch shots.
From Sid Hartman:
The word that keeps coming out now is how bad the chemistry was last year and how a lot of players only played for themselves.
"You could say so," McCants said. "You could say our chemistry is better, our camaraderie, leadership, just the whole intensity.
These Timberwolves now have real NBA talent -- Al Jefferson, Corey Brewer, Randy Foye, Antoine Walker -- and something those early Wolves teams didn't: a chosen direction.
Also from Zgoda:
STAR TRIBUNE’S STAR OF THE WEEK: Al Jefferson, forward/center
The big event was late Wednesday night, when Big Al drove hurriedly to Target Center and signed his five-year, $65 million contract extension just before an 11 p.m. deadline.
In his blog On The Wolves, Zgoda tells more stories from the team's early years.
Stephen Litel/Downtown Journal on the team's loss to Denver.
Ben Polk/City Pages also breaks down Friday's game.
Matt Tiano/Timberwolves site on "everything you wanted to know about Big Al in game one."
The Timberwolves, who were purchased by Glen Taylor 12 years ago for $88 million, have had just one cash call for limited partners during that period.no comments