MINNEAPOLIS — As expected, neither Nikola Pekovic nor Andrei Kirilenko will play on Monday against Miami. Pekovic suffered an abdominal strain in the first quarter of Thursday’s game in Los Angeles, Kirilenko a calf strain two nights before in Phoenix.
Pekovic underwent an MRI, which coach Rick Adelman said did not reveal anything further. Both he and Kirilenko will be monitored throughout the week, and Adelman was leery to say he’d expect either to take the court this week. The Timberwolves play against Washington at home Wednesday, in Denver on Saturday, and back home against Dallas Sunday.
Adelman will start Mickael Gelabale in Kirilenko’s place and Greg Stiemsma in Pekovic’s, just as he did in Portland. Doing so rather than inserting Dante Cunningham into the starting five, as he did against the Lakers, gives the Timberwolves more flexibility of the bench. (And yes, you read that right: A player who began the season playing in France and was on a 10-day contract in January will be most likely guarding LeBron James.)
James, who banged his left knee on Sunday in New York, will play for the Heat.
The odds are against them: The Heat have won 14 straight games, tying a franchise record, and they roll into Minnesota coming off an impressive comeback win over the Knicks Sunday. With the Timberwolves having only nine healthy players, imagining an upset win seems like a long shot, but Adelman stressed that he and his team can’t approach the game in such a way.
“There’s always that situation where you come out and play great, and some of the other team is not playing so good,” Adelman said. “What you’ve got to do is give yourself a chance to win in the fourth quarter. You can’t get down. They’re an awfully good team.”
In their past five games against the Heat, the Timberwolves have lost by an average of 15.4 points, losing each time. In addition, James has scored at least 24 points in each of his last eight games in Minnesota; he’s played there nine times in his career, with Monday marking the 10th. James is averaging 29.8 points at the Target Center, the most of any opposing player at the arena all-time.
That’s a lot working against the Timberwolves, and it’s nothing new. As much as Adelman might be resorting more and more to humor in recent days — he invited any media member willing to guard James to sign a 10-hour contract on Monday — the coach is obviously stressed by the downright ridiculous rash of injuries his team has seen this season. He discussed at length how difficult it is to keep morale up, complimenting his players — “We have a great group of guys who’ve busted their tails are year,” he said. “They just keep getting slapped around.” — despite their losing record.
“I worry about with . . . the guys we have, too, we’re worried about not having somebody else go down,” Adelman said. “You’re pushing them so far. But that’s just the way it is. I think our guys are going to compete.”