MINNEAPOLIS — Once again, the Timberwolves are left wondering what if.
What if Kevin Love’s hand hadn’t shattered not once, but twice? What if Chase Budinger’s knee ligament hadn’t sliced itself into pieces? What if Brandon Roy’s brittle joints had a season left in them?
And now, on a much more micro level than any of those nagging questions, what if Andrei Kirilenko hadn’t sat out the second half of Monday’s 100-98 loss with a strained right quad?
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Kirilenko left the Timberwolves’ game with 1:19 remaining in the first half, diagnosed with a right quad strain. Though initially listed as questionable, he did not return, and he remained in the Timberwolves’ locker room nearly an hour after the game getting treatment. At the time of his exit, Kirilenko had two points on four shot attempts. Mickael Gelabale started the third quarter in his place.
Without Kirilenko, the Timberwolves were down to a six-man bench yet again; the team has had 12 healthy players for just 3.5 games since December 26. Players have to be fed up with repeating the “we’re missing guys, but other guys have to step up” line, but that was the trite go-to phrase again after Monday’s loss.
When Kirilenko left the game, the Timberwolves were down, 47-34. They went on to dig themselves a hole that was as large as 19 points at the end of the third quarter, when Portland led 77-58. However, Minnesota managed to wedge its way back in it in the fourth quarter, finally capitalizing on the Trail Blazers’ turnovers (they had 28 on the night) despite their own stagnant offense.
“Our team can’t exist on one or two guys having big nights,” Rick Adelman said, critiquing the lack of offense across the board. “It’s got to be four or five guys who are stepping up, giving us something different, making shots.”
Monday night marked the fifth time this season that the Timberwolves had a chance at a game-winning or game-tying shot, and yet again, they failed, as Dante Cunningham missed a midrange jumper as the clock expired. The team has only been successful in such a situation once, on Nov. 9 against the Pacers, when the play was drawn up for Kirilenko, who then elected to pass the ball in to Budinger as he cut toward the basket. With both players injured Monday, the Timberwolves’ options were severely limited, and though they liked the plan they drew up at the end, it wasn’t enough.
The team had no further update on Kirilenko postgame. It has a day off Tuesday before facing the Spurs at home Wednesday.