Pekovic's Consistent Play Paying Dividends
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Lakers center Andrew Bynum is not your average sized man. The 7-foot-0, 285-pounder is a bruising force in the paint who, on most nights, can have his way with nearly any defender that tries to go blow for blow with him during L.A.’s offensive possessions.
On Sunday against the Timberwolves Bynum again got his points, posting 21 on the night, and the Lakers got the win. But both paled in comparison to one facet of Sunday’s contest that stuck with Bynum during his postgame interview:
“Thank god they took Pekovic out of the game,” Bynum said.
Perhaps the best way to describe Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic is consistent. The 6-foot-11, 290-pound big man doesn’t try to do anything out of the ordinary on the court. Instead, he focuses on the parts of the game he can impact and does them every night.
He’ll hustle to set picks for Ricky Rubio, battle opposing teams’ biggest bodies down low and provide a spark on both ends of the floor when he’s on the court. But the thing Pekovic has done with particular proficiency this season is rebound on the offensive end. Of his 47 boards this season, 33 are offensive—making it 70.2 percent of his total rebounds.
Forward Kevin Love, who knows a thing or two about rebounding, said it’s no surprise.
Since rejoining the active roster on Jan. 6 after recovering from a groin injury, Pekovic has continued to earn his spot on the floor with that consistent play. He’s started the past three games in Darko Milicic’s absence, and over the past four games he’s averaging 23 minutes per night. On Friday, he notched his second career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds against the Spurs.
His scoring is an added bonus, and he’s been doing his share at 7.4 points per night and shooting a lofty 61.3 percent from the floor this season. But it’s his tenacity on the offensive end that has made him a force. With both Pekovic and Love leading the way Sunday against the Lakers, Minnesota outscored L.A. 56-42 in the paint and 32-10 in second-chance points.
“I’m just trying to use my body, that’s all” Pekovic said. “I’d like some more offensive rebounds.”
Coach Rick Adelman said Pekovic has consistently put up strong performances for the past two weeks. He said Pekovic simply stays with his strengths and contributes with aggressive, consistent play. In fact, the lone drawback of his style of play is picking up fouls—he’s had three or more in eight of his 12 games this season.
“The thing that is impressive about him is he knows what he can do,” Adelman said. “He knows what his strengths are, and he plays to them. He doesn’t try to do anything else. We count on that.”
His reliability is rubbing off on his teammates, who are pleased with the type of play he brings each night. Rubio, who benefits from Pekovic's screens on pick and rolls, said his recent play has been a big asset.
“Pekovic is tough,” he said. “He is strong. He uses his body and he is huge. He helps us a lot.”
With each passing game, Pekovic said he is continuing to get more comfortable in his role and is feeling his teammates’ trust on the court. One thing they don’t doubt is the type of production he’ll give them each night.
“When you play some minutes and the players believe in you, give you the ball, you feel more comfortable,” Pekovic said. “I’m trying to do some new stuff, of course. I feel comfortable out there.”
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