KG's Rookie Year
The Timberwolves have difficulty with the San Antonio Spurs, and Wednesday night's game at Target Center was no exception. The Spurs' 105-96 victory was further proof that the Wolves' turnaround has not yet begun. The loss was the third straight for the Wolves (1-5) despite a career night for 19-year-old rookie Kevin Garnett. Garnett had 19 points and eight rebounds. The Wolves dropped to 3-28 lifetime against the Spurs.
Whenever the Wolves play the Spurs (5-2), the focus usually falls on David Robinson. Last season's NBA most valuable player didn't let a teen-ager upstage him, pouring in 30 points and collecting 12 rebounds in 29 minutes. Sean Elliott complemented Robinson with 21 points. Tom Gugliotta, doing most of the inside work with Christian Laettner on the injured list with an ankle sprain, finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds. But Gugliotta, like his teammates, wilted in the second half. Gugliotta had only four points in the second half. The Wolves shot 39 percent (31 of 78), the fourth game in which they shot below 40 percent.
Spurs guard Avery Johnson made a free throw and fed Robinson for an alley-oop dunk to build a 95-87 lead with 3:53 remaining. The Wolves trailed only 91-87 with 6:56 left after Sean Rooks' hook shot over Robinson. They had three chances to tie or take the lead but came up empty on each possession. Gugliotta missed two shots, one a three-pointer, and Micheal Williams had the ball stolen by Johnson.
Behind Garnett's inspiring play, the Wolves cut into a 13-point deficit to trail 85-78 by the end of the third quarter. Garnett blocked a shot by J.R. Reid and scored the Wolves' last six points of the quarter, four on impressive tip-ins. Robinson's jumper had given the Spurs an 82-68 lead with 3:28 left in the third quarter. The Wolves seemed to get caught flat-footed trying to locate guard Vinny Del Negro. Del Negro got the Spurs off to a fast start in the period with 12 points, including two three-pointers over Doug West.
Already angered by Del Negro's flurry, West lost his cool when Gugliotta hit the floor hard on a drive to the basket and a foul was not called. Replacement referee William Kennedy hit West with two technical fouls, an automatic ejection. Robinson made the technical free throw to put the Spurs up 76-66 with 5:09 left in the quarter. West's outburst came when the Spurs were taking over the game after a sluggish second quarter.
The Wolves took advantage of cold shooting by the Spurs in the second quarter and Robinson's foul problems to take a 59-57 lead at halftime. Robinson picked up his third foul with 7:16 left in the quarter and sat out the rest of the period. If not for the foul trouble, Robinson might have had even more impressive numbers. He had made six of his first nine shots to open with a quick 15 points, 14 in the first quarter.
After Robinson left the game, the Spurs made only four field goals the rest of the half. They finished the second quarter shooting 5 for 22 (23 percent), which helped the Wolves make a run just before halftime. Trailing 52-47, the Wolves went on a 12-2 spurt highlighted by two fast-break baskets by rookie Mark Davis. Garnett started the run with an inside move. Rooks added two free throws and Gugliotta converted a layup and two free throws.
Gugliotta, who posted his fourth double double (points and rebounds) this season in the first half, was the Wolves' most active player. He had 16 points and 10 rebounds at intermission.
Nine of his points came at the free-throw line, an indication of the Wolves' determination to take the ball inside with Robinson playing soft because of foul problems.