GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. 76ers - Feb. 20, 2013

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Final: That's the ballgame, folks. The Sixers played the foul game down the stretch and aside from a couple misses from Pekovic, the Wolves made good on their free throw attempts in a 94-87 win at Target Center. They led wire to wire in this one. Pek had an outstanding game, scoring 27 points and tying his career high with 18 rebounds. Derrick Williams finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, and Ricky Rubio had 11 points, six assists and six rebounds. Andrei Kirilenko had 15 points. For the Sixers, Evan Turner had 17 points and Jrue Holiday had 16. The Wolves have an off day on Thursday before heading to Oklahoma City for a Friday night game. MIN 94, PHI 87

Q4 2:30: Good news, bad news, folks. Good news is Pek and D-Will continue to shine tonight, as Pek has 25 and 17 while D-Will has 17 and 8. The bad news is those two and Kirilenko have scored 57 of the team's 87 points, and the Sixers have found their way back to within four here with 2:30 to play. Rubio has five fouls and has been limited a bit in the fourth, but he'll be out there with the rest of the starters as we come out of this timeout. Adelman is dialing up a gameplan right now as we speak. MIN 87, PHI 83

Q4 8:56: Still a nine-point game here tonight at Target Center. Nine minutes to play and the Wolves are trying to hold off a Sixers run. Minnesota has led by as many as 19 tonight, but the Sixers are well-coached and you can believe Doug Collins has an answer if Minnesota continues to struggle from the floor. Minnesota was shooting 21-of-41 at the half. They are now shooting 28-for-61. MIN 80, PHI 71

End Q3: Minnesota continues to lead, but the Sixers are making a comeback thanks in large part to Evan Turner. He had 14 points in the third quarter while shooting 5-of-10, and he's helped bring the Sixers back to within nine. Doug Collins talked a lot about the Wolves' back court pregame, and they haven't had big games offensively tonight. Instead, it's been the Wolves' front court doing the work. Kirilenko-Williams-Pek have combined for 52 points on 19-of-31 shooting. Nice stats for the starting front court, as the rest of the team has scored a combined 24 points. Important 12 minutes coming up here, as Minnesota looks to find their offensive touch back. They shot 6-of-17 in the third. MIN 76, PHI 67

Q3 5:56: Philly opened up the half with a 15-9 advantage on the scoreboard, and Wolves still hold the lead but it is now down to 11. Big nights from both D-Will and Pek, who have a combined 35 points on 15-of-21 shooting. Ridnour and Rubio each have five assists so far. The bench hasn't gotten much time on the court tonight, but Minnesota has 12 points total from their reserves. They're still shooting 4-of-7 from 3-point range. MIN 65, PHI 54

Halftime: The Wolves enter halftime with a 15 point lead over the Sixers, shooting 51 percent from the field and an efficient 3-of-4 from 3-point range. Pek has his 20th double-double of the year with 14 points and 11 rebounds, D-Will has 12 points and Kirilenko has eight. For the Sixers, Jrue Holiday has 11 points to lead the way. Minnesota is being efficient, and as a result they've had control of this game virtually all night. They just need to maintain that level of competitive play in the second half Their biggest downfall this season is not being able to sustain that offensive efficiency for a full 48 minutes. MIN 56, PHI 41

Q2 3:36: A couple major developments here. One, Nelly is sitting baseline tonight here at Target Center. Don't know specifics but it sounds like he's doing a small performance in town and is stopping by for the game tonight. Two, the Klondike Challenge tonight was a guy using EZ Cheese as a hair product. Gross. Third, the Wolves put up a 13-2 run and are now in control of this one as they hold a 51-34 lead. Pek and D-Will continue to shine. They've got 25 points combined and have converted 11-of-17 shots. Great start for the Wolves front court. MIN 51, PHI 34

End Q1: The Wolves put together a 35-point first quarter here to begin the game, led by Derrick Williams' 10 points and a 59.1 percent shooting performance. The Wolves really needed a fast start coming out of the break, and they're getting it. Not only that, but they've been to the free-throw line 10 times and are shooting 7-of-10 right out of the gate. D-Will and Pek (nine points) are a combined 8-for-13 from the field. Ricky Rubio officially has 501 assists in his career--he got No. 500 early on in the first quarter. Congrats to Ricky on the achievement! MIN 35, PHI 25

Q1 5:25: Really fast start for the Wolves tonight, which is exactly what the team was looking for coming out of the All-Star Break. They started out 5-of-8 and took a 16-5 lead early on, including an assist from Rubio to AK in the first four seconds of the game right off the tip. Minnesota is 2-of-2 from 3-point range and has four assists on five field goals. But the Sixers are currently on a 6-0 run as Minnesota has slowed a bit--the Wolves are 0-for-4 in their last four field goal attempts--and it's a five-point game. MIN 16, PHI 11

PG-Jrue Holiday, SG-Nick Young, SF-Evan Turner, PF-Lavoy Allen, C-Spencer Hawes

Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Luke Ridnour, SF-Andrei Kirilenko, PF-Derrick Williams, C-Nikola Pekovic

Pregame 6:25 PM: Sixers coach Doug Collins had the quote of the night so far during pregame. When asked if the All-Star Break was good for his players, he joked he was waiting for a chance to hit the lake with a certain Timberwolves center.

"I wanted to go with Pekovic ice fishing, have a couple of beers, but he didn't invite me," Collins mused. "I had to go to Arizona instead."

He hopes that however the Sixers spent their All-Star Weekend, they come back with an opportunity to get off to a quick start against a Wolves team that has really hurt Philly in their past two meetings. Minnesota is looking for the season sweep tonight against Philadelphia, and if the 76ers hope to avoid that they're hoping to hold the Wolves back court in check. In Minnesota's 105-88 win in December, Alexey Shved, Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea combined for 38 points on 14-of-26 shooting.

That doesn't include Ricky Rubio, who didn't play in that game.

"Rubio is such a playmaker; he sees the floor very well," Collins said. "You turn your head and he's going to make you pay for it. He makes great bounce passes to guys rolling to the basket. He's a very underrated shooter. When we were in here last year, he had a big game against us, shot the ball very well. Barea hurts us with the pick-and-rolls. Ridnour hurts us, he's feisty."

For Wolves coach Rick Adelman, the key is getting on a roll. It's about winning one game at a time.

"You have to win one, then win two, then sneak a game on the road against a good team," Adelman said.

He said not all the teams ahead of the Wolves are going to finish strong; some will come back toward Minnesota and the Wolves can take advantage of that if they start putting together a stretch of wins.

"We haven't proven over the last three weeks to a month that we can do that," Adelman said. "That's what we need to do."

Pregame 4:45 PM: Welcome to Target Center, where the Wolves will resume play after the All-Star Break and take on the Philadelphia 76ers tonight. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM.

It’s amazing how much time has passed since these two teams faced each other last, a 105-88 Wolves win in Philly that featured three starters—Kevin Love, Malcolm Lee and Josh Howard—who are not available tonight. Howard started in place of Andrei Kirilenko, who missed four games at the end of November and beginning of December due to injury, and he will actually be making his return to the lineup tonight after missing the Wolves’ previous five games with a strained right quad.

He said he hasn’t seen Philly in more than year and a half—which is true since he played last year in Russia—but he did say one of the keys to tonight’s game is stopping Jrue Holiday.

Holiday, a first-time All-Star this weekend, is averaging 19.0 points and 8.9 assists this year. He’s been the catalyst for a team that is missing Andrew Bynum and Thaddeus Young tonight, as Philly opens up their post-All-Star schedule seven games under .500 but within striking distance of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

“They’re fighting, they’re trying to find a way to win the game,” Kirilenko said. “I think Jrue Holiday, he really improved over the last few years, became an All-Star this year….He’s worth a lot. He’s really energized the team and really controlling the team.”

The Wolves have talked the past two days about recuperating both physically and mentally during the All-Star Break, and they hope facing the Sixers will help start them off on the right foot. Last time these two teams faced one another, Minnesota produced one of its best shooting nights of the year. They shot 53.2 percent from the floor, hit 13-of-25 3-pointers and had seven players in double figures. Alexey Shved, who had a great showing in this weekend’s Rising Stars Challenge, had 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting and hit four 3-pointers against the Sixers in that outing. Minnesota could use an effort like that again tonight.

Here are a few notes to think about as we head into tonight’s game:

  • The Wolves lead the all-time series 24-20, and are 14-8 at home. The Wolves have won the last two games in the series, including a 105-88 victory at Philadelphia on Dec. 4, 2012. Minnesota made a season-high 13 treys in that game and scored a season-high 65 first-half points.

  • Minnesota has used 13 different starting lineups this season (15 in 2011-12). The most games for any Wolves starting lineup this season is eight posted by the Kirilenko, Love, Pekovic, Ridnour and Shved lineup (4-4 record).

  • Ricky Rubio is averaging 15.0 points, 10.0 assists and 2.33 steals in 35.2 minutes per game over the last six games. He has recorded four point/assist double-doubles over that stretch, including three in the last four games. Rubio has tallied double-digit assists in five of the last six games. He needs two assists to reach 500 for his NBA career.

  • Nikola Pekovic is averaging 17.2 points, on 52.1% shooting, and 9.9 rebounds in his last 27 games (13 double-doubles). He ranks 17th in the NBA in rebounds with 8.9 rpg, 6th in offensive rebounds with 3.7 per game, 22nd in double-doubles with 19 and 29th in field goal percentage at 50.6%. Pekovic has pulled down at least one offensive board in 55 straight games, the 4th-longest active streak in the NBA (Kevin Love - 75, Anderson Varejao - 57, Tyson Chandler - 56).

  • Luke Ridnour has been the Wolves' leading scorer in three of the last four games, averaging 19.0 ppg on 56.1% shooting -- including 65.9% on two-point shots. He's shooting 53.7% (65-for-121) in the last 11 games. Ridnour is the only Wolves player to play in all 50 games (all starts).

  • Derrick Williams is averaging 16.0 points and 8.2 rebounds over the last five games, including posting two double-doubles. He grabbed a career-high 16 boards on Feb. 13 vs. Utah.

  • The Wolves rank 5th in the NBA in FT attempts per game (25.4) and 4th in fewest FT attempts allowed per game (20.3). They've shot 30+ FTs 16 times and allowed less than 20 FT attempts 20 times.

  • Philadelphia is in 9th place in the Eastern Conference, 3.0 games behind Milwaukee for the final playoff spot. The 76ers have lost their last six road games and are 6-16 overall on the road.

  • The 76ers rank 29th in the NBA in points scored at 92.4. They have scored below 93 points in their last seven games.

  • Jrue Holiday is one of two players (Russell Westbrook) averaging at least 19 points and 8 assists this season. He ranks 12th in the NBA in scoring (19.0) and 4th in assists (8.9). He has scored 25+ points 12 times and has recorded 14 point/assist double-doubles.

  • Spencer Hawes is averaging 13.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists in the last five games.

  • Philadelphia is 20-1 when leading after three quarters, the lone loss coming in their most recent game at Milwaukee on Feb. 13.

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