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News » Timberwolves-Wizards Preview

Timberwolves-Wizards Preview

Timberwolves-Wizards Preview
Earlier this month, the Minnesota Timberwolves figured they'd have reason for optimism going into the second half of the season, with a young roster showing signs of improvement around its emerging star at center.

Instead, they're reeling from Al Jefferson's season-ending knee injury as they return from the All-Star break Tuesday by visiting the Washington Wizards, another team without much to look forward to this spring.

Minnesota opened 4-23, but won 10 of its first 12 games after the calendar turned to 2009, with the 24-year-old Jefferson leading the way.

Acquired from Boston in 2007 as part of the Kevin Garnett trade, Jefferson averaged 23.1 points and 11.0 rebounds in 50 games as he continued his development into one of the best inside players in the league.

However, his season came to an abrupt halt last Sunday night in a loss at New Orleans, as Jefferson tore his ACL after landing awkwardly on his right knee. He's slated for surgery this week.

"Unfortunately for us, the season doesn't end," Minnesota coach Kevin McHale said last week. "We've got to keep playing. So we're just going to have to find a way. With any kind of adversity like that, new opportunities arise for other people. We're just going to have to go out there and make the best of it."

The Timberwolves (17-34) dropped their first game without Jefferson last Tuesday night, 110-102 at home just before the break to a Toronto team that was without star Chris Bosh. The loss was the fourth straight for McHale's club.

Randy Foye had 33 points for Minnesota, and the third-year guard should continue to get more opportunities with Jefferson out. Added responsibility will also fall on rookie center Kevin Love, the No. 5 overall pick in the draft.

After a tough start, Love has improved lately, notching four double-doubles in his last five games before the break. He had 15 points and 11 rebounds against the Raptors.

"(Jefferson has) taught me so much stuff and hopefully we'll continue to grow as a team, as a unit," Love said. "It's going to be tough not having him in there, but tomorrow, the lights are still going to come on."

The prospects haven't been bright all season for Washington (11-42), which has eight more losses than any other Eastern Conference team.

Lately, it's been woeful defense that's hurt the Wizards, whose opponents shot 52.5 percent and scored 113.5 points per game in their last six contests before the break. Washington went 1-5 in that span.

"Groundhog Day," forward Antawn Jamison said after a 101-89 loss at Charlotte on Wednesday night. "Defensively we're not getting stops and there were a couple of times we didn't even get a chance to shoot the ball."

Jamison and Caron Butler are each averaging more than 20 points for Washington, which has been without three-time All-Star Gilbert Arenas and center Brendan Haywood all season.

The Wizards have also been missing center Andray Blatche as well as shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson, who struggled when in the lineup.

"You get us all healthy, we can beat anybody, hands down," Butler said. "... We can be great next year."

Tuesday's game is the first meeting between the Wolves and Wizards this season. Minnesota, swept by Washington in 2007-08, will be looking to end a four-game losing streak at the Verizon Center.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: February 16, 2009


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