Forward has three cracked vertebrae
DENVER -- Minnesota forward Wally Szczerbiak is expected to be out for at least the rest of the Timberwolves' playoff series against Denver after cracking three vertebrae in his back.
Szczerbiak was injured in the fourth quarter of the Nuggets' 107-86 victory Saturday when he was fouled from behind by Chris Andersen and landed on his back. Tests on Monday showed cracks on the wings of three vertebrae.
"It has been an unlucky year," said Szczerbiak, who missed the first half of the season with a foot injury. "The team has done well without me. I will be there to support them and hopefully I can get better."
Szczerbiak was injured on a breakaway when he was bumped from behind by Andersen. Szczerbiak tried to hold himself up by the rim, but his hands slipped and he landed on the middle of his back. He stayed in the game to shoot the free throws, but couldn't come back in after his back tightened up on the bench.
Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said Szczerbiak had trouble putting his shoes on after the game and had quite a bit of swelling on Monday.
"It shows how tough Wally is," Saunders said. "The guy took that fall which is one of the nastiest falls you'll see and wanted to continue to play until we took him out of the game."
Szczerbiak, an All-Star for the Timberwolves in 2002, averaged 10.3 points in the first three games against Denver. His injury is similar to one the Vikings' Daunte Culpepper suffered in an end-zone collision last season. Culpepper missed three weeks.
Minnesota also has played the first three games of the series without backup point guard Troy Hudson, who's expected to have surgery soon on a chronically sprained right ankle.
The Nuggets, meanwhile, will likely be without two key reserves for Game 4 on Tuesday night.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press