MINNEAPOLIS — That same, sickly feeling is starting to permeate the Target Center walls again.
It’s the sensation experienced when a less-than-100-percent Chase Budinger, an offensively limited Dante Cunningham and a 31-year-old Ronny Turiaf each has his name called during starting lineups. When Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic are on the bench in suit coats.
It’s a long way from filling the venue like smoke from a Mexico City Arena generator malfunction. But the All-Star break is almost here, and Minnesota finds itself shorthanded. Again.
The team announced about 20 minutes before Saturday’s game against Portland that shooting guard Kevin Martin sustained a broken bone in the tip of his left thumb and is out indefinitely. About five minutes later, it was revealed that Kevin Love wouldn’t be playing, either, due to a left-thigh contusion.
Both injuries occurred in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s loss at New Orleans.
After Minnesota returned to the Twin Cities early Saturday morning, an X-ray taken at TRIA Orthopedics in Bloomington, Minn., revealed a non-displaced fracture of the distal phalanx in Martin’s left thumb. No timeline for his return has been announced, but the team said his ailment won’t require surgery.
Love’s injury is less serious; he took a knee to the thigh from former Timberwolves forward Greg Stiemsma late Friday night. The NBA’s No. 4 scorer and No. 2 rebounder missed his second game in Minnesota’s past three outings, having sat out Wednesday at Oklahoma City due to a sore neck and back.
Love spoke with reporters two hours before Saturday’s 7 p.m. tipoff and admitted he was sore but didn’t mention anything about sitting out.
"I’ve been taking a little bit of a beating," said Love, who also hit the floor hard Tuesday against the Lakers and rolled his left ankle last week, "but that’s the way it goes sometimes."
Even with the physical punishment he’s endured, Love doesn’t plan on sitting out of next Sunday’s All-Star Game in order to recuperate a bit.
"I get a lot of rest," said Love, who will play in his third All-Star Game and make his first start. "I’m one of those guys at the All-Star break, I usually stay in my room, just like I am here. I’m pretty much a homebody. I go to my different events, but I’m more often or not in my room stretching, icing, just kind of kicking back with my family."
With center Nikola Pekovic already missing his seventh straight game with right-ankle bursitis, the Timberwolves were left with a starting lineup of Ricky Rubio, Corey Brewer, Budinger (who is still dealing with after-effects of preseason knee surgery), Cunningham and Turiaf on Saturday. They played without their top three scorers, who average a combined 62.6 points, 25.7 rebounds and seven assists per game.
Backup point guard Mo Williams was out for the Trail Blazers on Saturday due to family reasons. He tweeted Wednesday his sister is hospitalized and is assumed to have left the team to be with her.
Third in the Western Conference coming in, Portland has stayed mostly healthy this season. Until the past couple weeks, Minnesota had, too, but remained mired in the West’s 11th slot — three out of playoff contention.
Missing Love for a game and Martin and Pekovic for what the Timberwolves hope are short stints doesn’t carry the direness associated with last season, when Love played in only 18 games and four other main rotation players missed at least that many.
But with only three games left before next week’s All-Star festivities, Minnesota is already behind.
With the West as stacked as it is this year, a fully healthy Timberwolves squad would have a hard time climbing out of the hole its close losses and blown second-half leads have forged. Missing their top three point producers decreases their odds even more. Even if it’s only for a short time.
"Every game is important for us," Adelman said. "We’ve got to make some hay."