Wolves' Nikola Pekovic still fighting through a minutes restriction
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Nikola Pekovic didn't want to come out of the game.
After a shoddy first half, the Minnesota Timberwolves were making a third quarter run at erasing the double-digit deficit the New York Knicks had created.
At the heart of that surge was Pekovic. The 6-foot-11, 285-pound center, playing in front of a home crowd for the first time in six weeks, was in a noticeable groove. He bullied his way to 11 of the Wolves' first 20 points of the second half, bringing the Knicks' lead down to just four.
But despite fueling the drastic momentum swing, coach Rick Adelman signaled for the Wolves' big man to come out near the quarter's five-minute mark.
Adelman didn't have much of a choice, handcuffed by the minutes restriction Pekovic has been under since returning last weekend after 13 games sidelined with bursitis in his right ankle.
"It's tough, but I just have to do whatever (the team trainers) say," Pekovic said with a frustrated sigh. "I just got to follow the rules now if I want to keep this going in the right way."
When given clearance to play Saturday at Sacramento, Pekovic was given a 20-minute limit per game. That has been a flexible cap as he played 28, 24 and 26 minutes in his first three games back, but he is being limited to only 6-7 minutes at a time.
As was the case Wednesday against the Knicks, the time restriction can be a major hindrance to Pekovic's ability to find an effective rhythm. He reentered the game at the start of the fourth quarter but couldn't regain his previous form, while the Wolves were already coming unraveled again in an eventual 118-106 loss.
"It's really frustrating, because you're trying to win games and you're trying to stay relevant," Adelman said postgame Wednesday. "He had it going, that third quarter, we had it going with him on the floor and I had to take him out. It's just something that we have to live with, but it's really hard."
Pekovic said at practice Thursday he has been given no indication from the trainers of when the restrictions will be lifted.
For now, it is just a necessary evil Pekovic and the Wolves must deal with, especially if they want to avoid losing their starting center for another extended stretch.
Pekovic continues to deal with soreness in the ankle when running and jumping, but he said the pain hasn't lingered afterward as it had during January and February.
In three games, he has averaged 17 points (65.6 percent shooting) and eight rebounds.