Wolves lose to the Lakers 99-94; Point guard injuries adding up
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
It may not have been a win, but it was a step in the right direction.
The Minnesota Timberwolves (1-7) gave World Champion L.A. Lakers (8-0) all they could handle, taking them down to the wire before losing 99-94.
After four road loses by an average of 30 points, the Timberwolves showed the competitive spirit necessary by a young team looking to take the next step.
The game started very familiar fashion to Wolves fans. The Wolves kept it close in the games opening minutes before the Lakers jumped out to 19-12 lead. However, instead of folding, the Wolves turned it on with a 13-2 of their own and ending up leading 28-26 at the end of the first.
The Wolves kept it close with a mixture of out-hustling the undefeated Lakers and answering big shots with big shots of their own. The Wolves out rebounded the Lakers 54-42, thanks in large part to Kevin Love's 24 rebounds, including 11 offensive boards--both career highs.
The Wolves also showed improved defense and held an opponent under 109 points for just the second time this season
However, as improved as the defense and rebounding was, it was once again turnovers that were their downfall. The Wolves handed the Lakers 27 turnovers, 10 more than their average of 17 per game. Not many teams can turn the ball over 27 times against the Lakers and live to tell about it.
It should come as no surprise to those who follow the Wolves that it was Love once again leading the way for the Wolves, adding 23 points to his 24 rebounds-- his second 20-20 game of his young career.
Despite the improved effort, the loss was the 17th straight road game going back to last season the Wolves have dropped.
The Wolves will no doubt look to build on this Wednesday when they take on the Sacramento Kings in a dreaded back-to-back. The Kings beat the Timberwolves in the season opener 117-116 at Target Center.
The Problem at Point
The Minnesota Timberwolves knew they would be starting the 2010-11 season short at point guard with Jonny Flynn still on the mend from hip surgery.
The Wolves brought in Luke Ridnour from Milwaukee as someone who would not only be a quality backup to Flynn but as a veteran capable of starting while Flynn's hip healed.
Those plans, however, have come to a temporary halt just eight games into a season that hasn't had many positives for the Wolves.
Ridnour left Sundays game at Houston in the 1st quarter with a nagging hamstring injury that became too much to play through. Prior to the Tuesdays game against the Lakers, the Wolves announced that Ridnour would be held out for a week to get his hamstring right.
This left the Wolves with just Sebastian Telfair, Maurice Ager—two guys that likely wouldn't make too many other NBA rosters – at point guard with the versatile shooting guard Wayne Ellington also getting minutes running the point.
But, as the saying goes, when it rains, it pours.
Ellington was ruled out of the game against the Lakers with a thigh contusion he suffered against Houston on Sunday.
This now leaves only Telfair and Ager as the only healthy point guards and the Wolves likely to make some type of move.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune's Jerry Zgoda reported that the Wolves will bring in former free agants Curtis Jerrells, Sundiata Gaines and Aaron Miles to Sacramento for a workout prior to the Wolves game against the Kings.
Jerrells played four years at Baylor but went undrafted and was cut by the New Orleands Hornets in October. Gaines had a cup of coffee with the Jazz last season but has been on the street so far this year. Miles has been playing in Europe after playing for Golden State in 2006.
Thankfully for the Timberwolves, it doesn't appear Ridnour or Ellington's injury is serious. Ridnour will test his hip next week and, depending on the severity of the contusion (which is a fancy name for a bruise), Ellington should just be day-to-day. Michael Beasley missed just a game and a half with a hip contusion he suffered in Miami.
Flynn's status remains more of a mystery, however. Originally thought to be back mid-to-late November, there is still no target date for his return to the lineup.
Prior to last Fridays game against the Hawks, coach Kurt Rambis gave an update on Flynn's status. "He gets closer every day," Rambis said about Flynn. "He went through practice yesterday, was very animated, went through everything we went through but was still very stiff and sore this morning. Lets you know that it's a while to go," Rambis said.
Flynn, who has traveled with the team, says he is getting better every day and is close to a return. This appears to be a classic example in pro sports of a player being overly optimistic of his return while his coach remains overly cautious.
Expectations of a competitive, run-and-gun team made by Wolves brass this summer were made with Flynn, Ridnour and shooting guard Martell Webster (lower-back, out indefinitely) in mind. Therefore it is imperative the full compliment of players get on the court together so this young team can begin to gel before the frustration of too many lopsided losses begins to set in.