EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – After yet another injury, this one to Andrei Kirilenko in Phoenix on Tuesday, Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman expounded a bit on his team’s short-handedness – just as he has all season, it seems.
This time, though, he reached a succinct conclusion:
“It gets old,” he said, and really, there’s no better way to sum up this season for the Timberwolves.
Kirilenko suffered a left calf strain in the first quarter of Tuesday’s overtime loss, and he did not seem confident at all on Wednesday about playing in the final games of the team’s three-game West Coast swing. He will for sure sit out Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Kirilenko was visibly disappointed with the injury coming in just his third game since returning after the All-Star break, and he said that despite missing two weeks of play in early February, he was feeling good and in game shape. He added that with so many injuries, he thinks the Timberwolves must be cursed.
“Too many … people missing games,” Kirilenko said. “Something’s wrong.”
“If we would be in Russia, we would go to church and put the candles up.”
To compensate for Kirilenko’s absence, Adelman said he’ll rely more on Mickael Gelabale and Alexey Shved, and he’ll have to resort, most likely, to playing Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham, both power forwards, alongside each other. When Kirilenko missed the last five games before the All-Star break with a left quad strain, Gelabale started in his place.
There was one piece of good news, though: Center Nikola Pekovic, who was ill Tuesday and was a game-time decision to play, received an IV after the game and should be good to go on Thursday. That will leave the Timberwolves with 10 healthy players against the Lakers.
End-of-game struggles: No team in the NBA has more losses when leading after three quarters than the Timberwolves, who have 10. In addition, and perhaps more frustrating, Minnesota also has the fewest wins when trailing after three quarters: two.
Tuesday night’s game was the perfect example. Sure, the Timberwolves mounted a big in-game comeback, but they couldn’t pull out the overtime win. Shved missed what could have been the game-winning layup with three seconds left, and the Suns went on to win, 84-83.
On Thursday, Adelman discussed his decision to rely on Shved at the end of games, which the coach done on occasion this season despite the rookie’s youth.
“He’s the one guy we have, I think, with his size and length, that he can get around people the best, and he sees the court well,” Adelman said.
In addition, Adelman worries about guards J.J. Barea and Luke Ridnour in such situations because of their size. The two can easily make open shots, but it’s too easy for an opponent to “smother” them, Adelman said.
The coach also said that his decision to take Ricky Rubio out of the game at the end of overtime on Tuesday was a result of the point guard being “gassed” and nothing more.
No practice, just shootaround: Barea hit a halfcourt shot to open Wednesday’s practice at the Lakers’ facility, thus cancelling the workout and allowing the team to spend time just shooting around. Adelman had told the players that if someone hit a halfcourt shot, they’d get the day off, and he’s used the incentive before with his teams in the past.
“He’ll do anything to get out of practice, even make a shot,” Adelman joked about Barea. “Won’t make it in games, but he’ll make it for that.”
“We needed to come over and just kind of get together. I don’t think we needed to do anything on the court. We didn’t have enough people anyway to things on the court.”