Wednesday, February 20, 8:00 PM (EST) at Target Center, Minneapolis, MN
22-29 (4th Atlantic, 9th East)
19-31 (5th Northwest, 12th West)
TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic FM | Live Stats
THE ENEMY: R. Rubio | L. Ridnour | N. Gelabale | D. Williams | N. Pekovic
by Max Rappaport
MATCHUP TO WATCH
C Nikola Pekovic vs. F-C Spencer Hawes
Since entering the league under atypical circumstances in 2010, center Nikola Pekovic has undergone a transformation from raw European NBA prospect to premier NBA big man.
On the season, the 6-11, 290-pound Montenegrin is averaging 15.9 points (50.6 FG%) and 8.9 rebounds per game, leading the Wolves in both categories.
After struggling with consistency early in the season, forward-center Spencer Hawes has begun to hit his stride. Over his last five games, the 7-1 big man is averaging a double-double – 13.6 points (43.9 FG%) and 10.4 rebounds, and has grabbed at least nine boards in each of those games. That streak is the longest of his six-year career. In his last ten games, he's posted five double-doubles, after doing so just four times over his previous 41 games.
While Pekovic can be a dominant force when he's at his best, his offensive repertoire is consistently limited, to say the least. A remarkable 92.7% of his attempts have come from inside the paint this season; he converts at a solid 52.7% clip from that area of the floor. From midrange, he has made just nine shots on 38 attempts this season (23.7 FG%). While no defender can seriously hope to force the disciplined Pekovic to play outside of his comfort zone, denying him position in the low post early in half-hourt opportunities will go a long way in limiting his effectiveness on the offensive end.
All Out of Love
After finishing sixth in the league in MVP voting last season after a campaign in which he averaged 26.0 points and 13.3 rebounds per game, superstar big man Kevin Love has struggled to stay on the floor this season. He's missed 32 of his team's 50 games so far this season due to injuries to his right (shooting) hand. In the 18 games in which he has played, Minnesota has gone 9-9; without him in the lineup, they are 10-22.
Relying upon Freebies
The T-Wolves rank 28th in the league in three-pointers made and 26th in field-goals made, but fifth in free-throws made. They've gone six straight games with fewer field-goals made and as many consecutive contests with more free-throws made. Over that span, they have won just one game.
After opening the season 16-15, the T-Wolves have won just three of their last 19 games. During that stretch, they've allowed their opponents to top 100 points 13 times, including five times in their last six. Minnesota has lost its last four home games.