MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Roughly 1,100 miles separates the Twin Cities from Washington, D.C. Yet, when the gap is viewed through a Spalding prism, these two metropolitan areas have never seemed closer.
The Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards have followed nearly identical paths through this long and hard NBA season with nearly identical results—plenty of losses, plenty of injuries and plenty of instability on the bench.
Caron Butler had 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists to lead the Wizards to a 110-99 victory over the Timberwolves on Monday night in a matchup of teams that had lost 14 straight combined.
Antawn Jamison added 26 points for the Wizards, who had lost five in a row and seven of their last eight.
“It’s just nice to get a win,” Wizards coach Ed Tapscott said. “Guys have been good all year about fighting through tough times, so I’m happiest for them. My veteran guys have been terrific. I keep making the point to my younger guys to follow them and we’ll be fine.”
And the news may only be getting worse.
Coach Kevin McHale did not have a timetable for the return of Foye, the team’s second-leading scorer and de facto leader now that Al Jefferson is out for the season with a knee injury.
“That’s like one of the last things we needed right now is for Foye to go down,” said Wolves guard Sebastian Telfair, who scored 18 points.
Both teams are playing without their best players because of injuries and have made in-season coaching changes in search of a new direction.
The Timberwolves (18-45), who replaced Randy Wittman with McHale in December, have nose-dived since Jefferson went down with a torn ACL before the All-Star break.
They are 1-12 without the big fella in the middle and are starting to look not only overmatched but also uninterested, especially at home in front of a dwindling fan base.
They have lost 11 in a row at home and still are searching for an identity without Jefferson in the post.
“I’m very sympathetic for them,” said Tapscott, who took over for Eddie Jordan on an interim basis in November.
Tapscott said having Jamison and Butler “have kept me from going crazy.”
On Monday night, the two veterans pushed McHale one step closer to that edge.
“We know how to take on the role of the go-to guy in certain situations,” Jamison said.
The Timberwolves took their first lead at 53-51 just over two minutes into the second half. But Jamison shrugged off a slow start to score 14 points in the final eight minutes of the third to put the Wizards, who shot 52.6 percent, back on top.
Butler then scored six points during a 13-0 run in the fourth that put the game away.
“They’re struggling as much as we are,” McHale said. “Right now, we’re not able to string together stops, there’s no question about that.”
Wizards C Darius Songaila scored 13 of his 19 points in the first quarter. … Wizards PG Mike James missed the game because of illness. Javaris Crittenton made his second career start in his place. … Butler’s steal in the fourth quarter gave him 800 for his career. … Wolves F Rodney Carney did not play in the second half because of a lower abdominal contusion.