MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — With six new faces on the roster and a couple of injuries early in the preseason, Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman hasn’t had much of a chance to get some cohesion going in a group that figures to enter the regular season with playoff expectations.
He has two weeks left to do it, and the work started in earnest on Tuesday night.
Kevin Love had 24 points and eight rebounds and Brandon Roy chipped in 19 points in Minnesota’s 114-81 victory over Maccabi Haifa.
Andrei Kirilenko had 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists after sitting out the previous game with a sore hamstring. Love also missed the previous game with a sore right elbow, but showed no ill effects on Tuesday.
With a healthy Love and Kirilenko, Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman wanted to start looking at combinations that will be used extensively early in the season. The Timberwolves have six new players who figure to play major minutes this season, and Adelman gave them plenty of playing time on Tuesday night.
The talent disparity turned the game into a glorified practice for the Wolves, which is just what they needed. Love, Kirilenko, Roy and Nikola Pekovic all played at least 25 minutes, with starting point guard Luke Ridnour playing 21 while he works his way back from a back injury that limited his ability to practice in training camp.
“They haven’t played together at all. That’s why I played them the first three quarters,” Adelman said. “In the second half, they were much better. Andrei makes a big difference defensively when he’s on the floor. He’s a good passer. We just have to get used to playing with each other.”
Pat Calathes had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Paul Stoll scored 17 for Haifa, a visiting team from Israel that came to the United States for two exhibitions. The Greens lost to Golden State on Thursday night.
The Timberwolves shot 42 free throws to Haifa’s 10.
Kirilenko’s presence was immediate, infusing the starting group with deft passing and defensive tenacity that the Wolves will sorely need with Ricky Rubio expected miss at least the first six weeks while recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee.
“I think we’re getting better game by game,” Kirilenko said. “I think we still struggle with our offense. But for the most part we’re getting better. It’s a process.”
Dante Cunningham scored 11 points and JJ Barea added 11 point and seven assists off the bench for the Wolves, who made so many moves in the offseason to create a deeper team that might be able to weather the early portion of the season without Rubio.
The key will be Roy, who is coming back after missing last season with chronic knee problems. He had a procedure this summer to try to relieve the bone-on-bone pain and signed with the Timberwolves in September after feeling much better in workouts.
The former All-Star still winces when he’s knocked to the floor, but he’s been nothing but efficient and smooth offensively in the early going for the Wolves. Roy was 4 for 8 from the field, including 2 for 2 on 3s, hit nine of his 10 free throws and grabbed four boards as well in 25 minutes.
“You want to get those minutes together,” said Roy, whose Wolves led by just three points at halftime. “At halftime I think we were all a little frustrated. But that’s why it’s the preseason, there’s a chance to work through some of that. We’ve got three more games to get everybody healthy and get not just our first group, but our second group some minutes together.”
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