GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves vs. 76ers | Dec. 11, 2013

GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves vs. 76ers | Dec. 11, 2013





Final: Ballgame. It wasn't pretty, but the Wolves survived and won their second straight game tonight, 106-99 over the Sixers at home. It's their first back-to-back wins since early November. Love finished the game with 26 points, 15 boards and five assists. Pek had 20 points and 10 boards, and Rubio had 21 points, seven assists and five boards. Hummel was big off the bench with 10. For the 76ers, Hawes and Wroten each had 20. More to come tonight on Timberwolves.com. MIN 106, 76ers 99

Q4 1:02: Love just followed up twice on a couple Wolves misses and tipped home the putback putting Minnesota up six, then Rubio stole the bound. After a foul, we're at a timeout with the Wolves up six and the ball. MIN 101, PHI 95

Q4 2:18 Nice feed from Rubio to Brewer inside to push the Wolves' lead back up to six. Great energy in this fourth quarter sparked by some key bench play, including some nice minutes from Robbie Hummel. He's got seven points on 3-of-5 shooting in 10 minutes tonight. The Sixers, meanwhile, haven't gotten to the line much tonight but missed a couple key free throws late. MIN 99, PHI 93

Q4 7:23: That's the run the Wolves were looking for. Minnesota on an 8-0 run after a long 2 from Hummel, a basket by Pek and a reverse layup by DC on the fast break. Minnesota needed that shot of life, and they got it. Love, who was on the bench, was dancing on the opposite baseline after Hummel hit his shot. The crowd is the loudest it's been all night right now, and rightfully so. Big push by the Wolves here. MIN 91, PHI 86

Q4 9:10: Hummel checked in and immediately hit a 3, his first shot of the night. Pek cleaned up inside on the last possession and the Wolves are back to within 3. The thing is they've gotten to this point and have consistently given up a four or five point run. We'll see if they can pull ahead here. PHI 86, MIN 83

End Q3: The Wolves climbed all the way back and tied this game on a Ricky Rubio 3, and even though Spencer Hawes answered back with his third 3-pointer of the night, that was a nice way to end the third. Minnesota was so sluggish in the first half, but that third quarter was much more smooth. Love has 22 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, while Rubio has 19 points and five assists. Even with all their struggles, the Wolves should be able to endure here and pull away in the fourth if they cut their mistakes and start converting at the basket. PHI 81, MIN 78

Q3 2:15: The Wolves keep trying to chip away here. Love is now up to 22 poitns, 10 boards and four assists. It's his 20th double-double in 21 games this year, and with one more assist he'd have his second straight 20-10-5 game. He's 7-of-15 from the field and 7-of-8 from the line. Rubio is now up to 16 points and five assists as well, and if the Wolves' offense continues to roll it will likely be because Rubio is moving the ball and accumulating those assists. Minnesota still only has seven fast break points--they need to start converting on Philly's turnovers. They have 19 tonight. PHI 78, MIN 73

Q3 4:43: Minnesota came out with much more intensity in this third quarter and cut the once 19-point deficit down to 3 earlier in the third. Philly has it back up to eight, but Minnesota is very much in this game. The difference is they continue to miss attempts at the rim. If they start finishing at the hoop, this will be a much different game. Philly is still shooting 58 percent for the game but has cooled off considerably since that red-hot first quarter. Love with 20 & 9, almost notched that 20th double-double of the season. PHI 74, MIN 66

Halftime: That's it for the first half. Minnesota goes into the half down 14 after Love hit a pair of free throws with 4 seconds left. He's got 15 points and six boards tonight, while Rubio has 14 and Pek has 10. Those three are a combined 14-for-24, while the rest of the team is a combined 3-for-23. For the Sixers, Turner has 13, Young has 12 and Hawes has 11. PHI 61, MIN 48

Q2 3:35: Adelman visibly upset with his first unit as they continue to give up points and ground to the Sixers tonight. Philly has led by as many as 19 and are up 55-37 here late in the second. What they're doing is no secret--Minnesota knew they would try to push the pace and get production out of Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes. But the defensive execution hasn't been there, and the offense looks stagnant compared to last night's performance in Detroit. PHI 55, MIN 37

Q2 6:00: Minnesota keeps trying to climb back in here, and we're about to see the full starting five back out there together. Adelman just put Love and K-Mart back in with Pek before the timeout. Pek and Love just combined to tip in a basket just before the timeout to bring this deficit back to 12. Minnesota opened up the quarter on an 8-0 run. The Sixers still have control at the moment, though, and part of the reason is Minnesota has missed a handful of attempts at the rim. PHI 44, MIN 32

Q2 8:56: The good news is three minutes into the second Minnesota has held Philly scoreless. The bad news is Minnesota still trails by 15. Adelman is rolling with Barea, Shved, Mbah a Moute, DC and Pek early on here to see if they can get a little spark going. Meanwhile, Philly was shooting 77 percent but is dropping in that department. They're at 65 percent now. PHI 39, MIN 24


End Q1: Wolves shooting woes continue, and it's costing them. Philly shot 77.3 percent in the first, finished the quarter with a 16-0 run and lead 39-20 after 1. They've scored 15 fast break points (remember how that was a key in this game?), and they're getting 5-of-6 shooting from Evan Turner (10 points) and 3-of-3 from Tony Wroten (7 points). Lorenzo Brown picked up a steal off Rubio and brought it back for two. For hte Wolves, Rubio has nine, Pek has six and Love has four. PHI 39, MIN 20

Q1 3:02: As it stands right now, Rubio and Pek are a combined 6-for-9 from the field, while the rest of the Wolves are a combined 2-for-14. They have 15 of the team's 20 points, and Rubio has the team's lone 3-pointer. But the Wolves are holding their own and trail by three, and in the last couple minutes they've held the Sixers from scoring in transition. Small steps, starting to play more aggressively. PHI 23, MIN 20

Q1 4:59: Not the best start from Minnesota tonight. One night after starting 12-of-18 from the field, Minnesota was 3-of-14 right out of the gate and is currently 6-of-20 from the field. They've given up 10 fast break points already--a point of emphasis from Philly this year--and they're giving up 75 percent shooting to the Sixers. Wroten (7), Young (6) and Turner (6) are the lone scorers for Philly, while Pekovic has six, Love has four & four and Rubio has three. PHI 19, MIN 13

Starters:

Sixers:
PG-Tony Wroten, SG-Hollis Thompson, SF-Evan Turner, PF-Thaddeus Young, C-Spencer Hawes

Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Kevin Martin, SF-Corey Brewer, PF-Kevin Love, C-Nikola Pekovic

Pregame 6:30 PM: One last update before starting lineups. Adelman said he's not sure when Chase Budinger and Ronny Turiaf will be available to return. Right now, he said Turiaf's elbow is healing slower than he thinks the doctors anticipated. He said Turiaf is getting better but it could be some time yet. As for Budinger, the Detroit road trip was the first time he traveled with the team this season. That's always a good sign as it means he's getting assimilated into the team both on the road and at home. But Adelman said he still thinks it will be a while. "We're hoping Chase can practice sometime in the next couple weeks, then we'll see where it goes from there," Adelman said. "But I think right now they're both unknown."

Pregame 6:20 PM: Looking at the stats (as mentioned earlier today), I think one area that might be indicative of success tonight could be the turnover battle in relation to transition points. The Sixers are fourth in fast break points this season with 16.9 per game, while the Wolves are seventh at 16.7 per night. On the flip side, the Wolves are 25th in the league in fast break points against per game at 15.2 and the Sixers are dead last at 18.1. So if this game gets moving at a quick pace as both teams tend to do, whichever is the most effective holding onto the ball and getting back in transition D is going to have better luck.

Then again, if you ask Sixers coach Brett Brown, the half court is just as troublesome against Minnesota.

"Playing these guys is scary, because any of Rick Adelman's teams over the years scores," said Brown, who battled Adelman's Sacramento and Houston teams while serving as a San Antonio assistant under Gregg Popovich. "It's dangerous, and it definitely starts with transition defense but it even creeps into that action and that's well-spaced action that he's lived with over the years in his half-court offense. It always starts with transition defense, but this type of team with the fire power they have and the fantastic system that coach has put it, it always worries me."

Adelman, on the other hand, sees Philadelphia's youth as being an issue.

"They've lost a few games late, but they're a team that could easily turn it around and win four or five," Adelman said. "They're athletic, they push it, they're going to come at you. It's going to be a tough game for us. It's the type of game that can give us trouble. We've got to see if we can back up how we played last night tonight."

Pregame 4:15 PM: A couple extra pregame notes before we hear from Sixers coach Brett Brown and Wolves coach Rick Adelman at 5:30 and 5:45 p.m., respectively. First, Lorenzo Brown is on this Philly team and has been getting a few minutes here and there since signing early on this season. Brown, the Wolves' 52nd overall pick in June, spent the summer on the Wolves' Summer League team and went through Training Camp and the preseason with Minnesota before parting ways after the team's final cut. He's averaging 2.6 points in 7.7 minutes per game. Brown's best game was two nights ago when he had six point on 3-of-6 shooting and four assists in 15 minutes against the Nuggets. The Wolves liked his 6-foot-4 frame coming out of NC State, and he was one of four guys Minnesota seriously considered for their final two spots on the 2013-14 roster. Ultimately, they decided to go with A.J. Price—who has more experience in the league—as a point guard to add depth behind Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea, then gave the other open spot to forward Robbie Hummel. But the team seemed to like Brown, so it will be interesting to see if he gets many minutes tonight.

Second, Brown talked a little bit about Kevin Love at shootaround this morning. As a former assistant in San Antonio, he's coached against Love 3-4 times a year for the past five seasons and also coached against him in international play when Love played for Team USA and Brown was head coach for Australia. And Brown got a chance to coach Love at the 2011 All-Star Game when San Antonio's staff was asked to lead the West. He had nothing but superlatives for the Wolves' two-time All-Star forward.

"I’ve seen him all over the place and he is a highly-skilled big man and whether it’s his passing, whether it’s his rebounding, whether it’s his ability to shoot, you know, it’s like where do you start?" Brown said. "But I think him and Pekovic are a fantastic combination, and you look at them and you see two lumberjacks just getting ready to knock your head off and, you know, you’ve got to find different ways to combat that. I’ve got a lot of time for his skill package, he’s very unique.”

Pregame 3:00 PM: Welcome back to Target Center for tonight’s game between the Wolves and Philadelphia 76ers. If feels like there haven’t been many home games lately, it’s because there haven’t been. This is just the second home game in the past 13 days, and as we look ahead to December there are only three more between now and the New Year. So while you can watch the game on Fox Sports North, listen on 830 WCCO-AM or follow along on this blog, take advantage of a few home games coming up during the holiday season if you get a chance.

That being said, let’s look at tonight’s matchup.

The first thing to know about the Sixers is that they’ll be without standout rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams tonight. This will be his fourth straight missed game while battling a right knee infection, which is a big deal because he’s averaging 17.7 points and 7.3 assists so far this year. Early on, he’s been right near the top if not the main rookie storyline in the league, beginning with his near triple-double (22 points, 12 assists, nine steals) in an Opening Night win over the Heat.

The Sixers are 1-6 without him in the lineup and have lost their last six games he’s missed.

Speaking of long droughts…

Philadelphia is 1-8 on the road this year. They won their first road contest in Washington on Nov. 1 but have not won since. Still, at 7-15 they are just 2 ½ games out of the eighth spot in the East.

For first-year coach Brett Brown—a long-time assistant in San Antonio under Gregg Popovich—the first thing he emphasized at this morning’s shootaround is that this team is a rebuilding project. The team is starting young and growing up together, and there is one main area he’s trying to build right from the start and going from there.

He wants this team to compete by running.

“We started with career-best fitness,” Brown said. “I wanted these guys in the best shape of their lives, and they responded. And with that you have a chance to play at a pace that I think these guys are good at, that the city would find attractive. That pace has come at the expense of sometimes transition defense, you know, with quick turnovers, or quick bad shots, and then the game’s right back at you. I think I misjudged how harmful that has been at times, but I wouldn’t trade it. We weren’t going to beat Chicago or Miami or Houston or any of those other really good teams any other way but by making it a track meet.”

He said that’s a key for any team they play, including the Wolves, but one thing to keep in mind is that Minnesota has played its best when it, too, has made it a fast break game. Getting Corey Brewer and Kevin Martin out in space has been a huge asset for this Wolves team, and if Philly does break down in transition defense it could mean big things for the Wolves tonight.

Philadelphia does give up a league-worst 18.1 transition points per game.

Here are a few notes to keep in mind as we get started. My next post will be a quick blurb about Brown’s thoughts on Kevin Love.

  • The Wolves lead the all-time series 25-20, and are 15-8 at home. The Wolves have won the last three games in the series, and six of the last seven at Target Center.


  • Wolves Notes

  • The Wolves are outscoring their opponent by 110 points in the first quarter this season, the largest point differential in the NBA (Houston 2nd-best at +77). Conversely, Philadelphia has been outscored by 119 points in the first quarter, ranking last in first quarter point differential. The Wolves lead the NBA in first-quarter scoring, averaging 30.3 points

  • Kevin Love ranks 1st in the NBA in rebounding (13.8 rpg) and 6th in scoring (23.8 ppg). He has a league-leading 19 double-doubles this year. Love has six 25-point/15-rebound games this season -- the rest of the league has 10.

  • Kevin Martin has connected on 60 of his last 63 free throw attempts (95.2%) and ranks 5th in the NBA in free throw accuracy at 93.1% and 7th in free throws made (121).

  • Nikola Pekovic is averaging 20.0 points on 52.6% shooting (40-76) and 9.2 rpg over his last five games. Pekovic has eight double-doubles this season, including three in the last five games.

  • Ricky Rubio ranks 2nd in the NBA in steals with 2.90 per game and 4th in assists with 8.4 apg. Rubio and Corey Brewer have combined for 99 steals this season -- the top duo in the NBA.

  • The Wolves rank 1st in the NBA in steals with 9.62 spg and 4th in free throw percentage at 80.3%. Minnesota is 6th in rebounds at 45.43 per game. The Wolves rank 4th in the league in free throw attempts with 27.1 per game. They are allowing their opponents an average of just 17.4 FTAs per game -- the 2nd fewest in the league (San Antonio 17.3).

  • The Wolves tied their season high by making 11 three-points last night in Detroit. Minnesota is 10-4 when making 7+ treys and 0-7 when making less than seven three-pointers.


  • 76ers Notes

  • Philadelphia has lost its last eight road games (1-8 overall), and is 0-2 on the road vs. the West. The 76ers have lost their last three games, seven of their last eight and 11 of their last 13 games.

  • The Sixers rank last in the NBA in points allowed at 109.5 per game and have held an opponent under 100 points just three times this season. The Sixers rank 12th in scoring at 102.0 ppg. They are 1-10 when scoring less than 100 points.

  • Evan Turner is one of just five players (Durant, Griffin, James, Love) averaging at least 20 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists this season. He has scored 20+ points 16 times already this year after doing so 17 times all of last season.

  • Michael Carter-Williams leads all rookies with 17.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists, an NBA-high 3.1 steals and 36.7 minutes. He has missed seven games this season, including the last three with right knee soreness -- the Sixers are 1-6 in the games he's missed.

  • Tony Wroten has started the last three games. As a starter (7 starts), he is averaging 18.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 36.4 minutes per game.



  • For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.