GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. Hornets - Feb. 2, 2013




Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Final: That's the game, folks. The Wolves ended their six-game losing streak with a 115-86 win over the Hornets at Target Center. Just what this team needed as they have an extremely tough week ahead with the Blazers, Spurs and Knicks all coming to town. Dante Cunningham led the way with 18 points on 9-of-9 shooting, setting a franchise record for the most makes in a game without a miss in a game. Pek had 14 points, Shved and AK had 12 and Gelabale had 11. More analysis, photos, interviews and more coming up on Timberwolves.com. MIN 15, NOH 86

Q4 2:02: Something tells me if the Wolves could play every game like this, they'd be in the postseason this spring. Just an exceptional game all around tonight, as they're up by 34 with 2:02 to play, they cracked 100 with four minutes to play and they're shooting 59 percent from the field. New Orleans lost control of this game early and never recovered, and the Wolves will snap their six-game losing streak tonight. They've got 56 points in the paint, holding a 21-13 advantage in second chance points and have 14 offensive rebounds on the night. MIN 110, NOH 76

Q4 8:54: Both teams are getting a little testy here in the fourth quarter, as three technicals have been given out early on. It's understandable as it's a 29 point game with about nine minutes to go. Minnesota continues to pound the paint and hold a distinct advantage at 44-20. The Wolves are giving Gelabale some decent minutes tonight, and he's taking advantage. He's 4-of-5 with nine points in 13 minutes. MIN 89, NOH 60

End Q3: What a stretch of three quarters by the Wolves, who have a 26-point lead at the half. We're pretty close to seeing Rubio collect his first point-assist double-double of the year as he has nine points and seven assists. His season-high for assists is 10. But more importantly than that, the Wolves are really putting together some good basketball on both ends of the court. They're shooting 55 percent from the field and holding New Orleans to 37 percent. MIN 83, NOH 55

Q3 2:53: I'm about to start calling this the Rubio Diary, because Ricky is pretty much taking over this game and he's all I'm writing about right now. Rubio just a second offensive foul of the night thanks to his defensive play, and he also had an excellent play off an inbound turnover that turned into a rim-rattling alley-oop to Dante Cunningham. Get the popcorn, folks, because it's getting to the point where it's starting to feel like he'll do something special every time he touches the ball. That's very reminiscent of last year. MIN 74, NOH 48

Q3 4:54: A little more razzle dazzle from Ricky, anyone? He just had another sensational play, regrouping near half court, going behind the back to himself and dishing to Pek for the hoop as the Wolves keep their lead at 25. Rubio has nine points and six assists, and he continues to shine right now. Each game he begins to show a little bit more of the flavor he showed last year on the court, and it's going to be fun when he continues to put these types of plays together on a consistent basis. MIN 67, NOH 42

Halftime: A night after trailing by 29 in the first half, Minnesota has a 28-point lead at the half and once held a 30-point lead. They're shooting 60 percent and holding the Hornets to 30 percent shooting. All the offensive rebounds that didn't bounce Minnesota's way last night are falling in their favor right now. Meanwhile, Dante Cunningham is a perfect 6-for-6 from the field and leading the team with 12 points. Pekovic has 10, and Rubio and AK each have seven. Really nice half on both ends of the court for the Wolves, who are holding a 22-15 rebounding advantage, have 15 assists and hold a 26-8 advantage in the paint. MIN 58, NOH 31

Q2 4:02: The Wolves are just rolling right now, and it's pleasant to see after so many difficult quarters over the past week or so. They're shooing 65 percent on the offensive end, and defensively they're holding the Hornets to 28.6 percent shooting. The result is a 28 point lead with four minutes to go in the second. We thought the Lakers' first half was unreal, but from a defensive standpoint the Wolves are putting together a similar half. MIN 55, NOH 25

Q2 8:58: Dante Cunningham has been so aggressive tonight getting to the basket. Obviously he is an effective shooter from just inside the arc, but he's been really getting to the basket tonight on the offensive end. This is really a part of his game I'd like to see him use more often. He's one of the most athletic guys on the team, and he has been known to throw down putback jams on offensive rebounds, but getting into the lane and putting up high-percentage shots is something he has the capability to do. He's got six tonight on 3-of-3 shooting. MIN 42, NOH 19

End Q1: This was a wonderful response quarter for the Wolves after such a disappointing start against the Lakers last night. They're shooting 75 percent from the field, and they held the Hornets to 4-of-16 shooting. All seven starters have scored, including seven from Krilenko, Rubio and Pekovic. The bench is 3-for-3 tonight from the field in their limited minutes. Meanwhile, the Wolves have an 18-2 lead in points in the paint, which was a key heading into the contest considering the Wolves scored 70 in the paint when these two teams met in December. MIN 33, NOH 14

Q1 2:56: Ricky Rubio continues to show signs of last year's exciting play. He just hit Andrei Kirilenko for an alley-oop jam moments ago, one of his first of the year to my knowledge, and the Wolves have opened up a 21-14 lead. Minnesota continues to shine from the field, shooting 8-of-11 to start the game. They are 5-of-8 from the line, however, and really need to shore that up. They're 13-for-26 over the last two games from the free-throw line. MIN 21, NOH 14

Q1 6:08: We're being treated to an aggressive Ricky Rubio tonight, folks. He's driving to the basket with authority, and once he gets there he's been able to not only finish but also find his teammates for the dish. He's already got six points on 3-of-3 shooting tonight, and although he's got just one assist he did find AK streaking to the basket--drawing the foul. All five starters have scored for Minnesota, and the Wolves are shooting 7-of-9 to start the game. New Orleans, by comparison, is shooting 2-for-7. MIN 15, NOH 8

Starters:
Hornets:
PG-Greivis Vasquez, SG-Roger Mason, SF-Al-Farouq Aminu, PG-Anthony Davis, C-Robin Lopez

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

Pregame 6:55: Wanted to do a quick shout out to our broadcast team for putting together an awesome and hilarious Super Bowl picks video featuring members of the Wolves giving their picks from the big game. It's a must-watch, particularly seeing one member of the Wolves' organization take a crack at the iconic Ray Lewis intro dance. Take a look.

Pregame 6:20 PM: A piece of advice: If you're hoping to figure out how the Hornets will battle the Wolves in the paint tonight, don't ask coach Monty Williams. He's not biting.

"Not gonna happen," Williams said. "We're just trying to keep them out of the paint. Obviously that's easier said than done."

He's got a point in remaining secretive. The Wolves absolutely crushed it in the paint in the teams' first meeting in December, winning the game 113-102 thanks in part to 70 points in the paint. The next matchup was far different. New Orleans owned a 48-40 points in the paint advantage, and the Hornets won 104-92. Tonight's matchup will likely hinge on whether or not Minnesota can exploit the paint again, led by Pekovic down low.

"Anytime you give this team opportunities to run with Rubio and Ridnour, it's tough," Williams said. "But Pekovic is such a dynamic runner in the first game, and he and Robin [Lopez] had a big time battle in the second game. That's a key matchup for both teams. We'll see how it goes."

As for the lineup, Williams confirmed that shooting guard Eric Gordon will not play tonight as he continues to be restricted on playing in the second game of back-to-backs. Roger Mason will get the start, and Williams said that often eases rookie Austin Rivers' nerves so he is able to survey the game before entering.

Wolves coach Rick Adelman is still skeptical about Gordon's status.

"I still think he's going to play," Adelman joked. "I'm very pessimistic at this point. I think he's going to play. Probably about 40 minutes."

Pregame 4:30 PM: Greetings from Target Center, and welcome to another night of Wolves basketball. Minnesota needs a win badly, as they’re currently on a six-game losing streak and are 3-13 in 2013. A lot of that has to do with injuries and unforeseen circumstances, but the bottom line is Minnesota sat 14-13 and teetering around the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race on New Year’s Day. Since then, they’ve fallen to 12th in the West and are currently 5 ½ games behind the Rockets for the eighth and final playoff spot.

They seem to be getting the Hornets at the right time, unlike the last time these two teams played in mid-January when New Orleans was in the process of winning six of seven. They’ve cooled off considerably since then, as the Hornets are losers of three straight and five of six over the last two weeks. All things equal, both the Wolves and Hornets played last night so they are both dealing with the physical strains of back-to-back games. But star shooting guard Eric Gordon has not played the second game of back-to-backs this year since returning from a knee injury that kept him out of the first two months of the season. We’re still projecting him as a starter since the Hornets have said they won’t officially announce Gordon’s status until 90 minutes before tipoff, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

The Timberwolves, however, can get their first win of this six-game homestand if they shore up a couple glaring holes in their performance from last night’s 111-100 loss against the Lakers. For one, free throw shooting is a must. Minnesota missed 10 free throws (8-of-18) and lost by 11. You do that math on that one. If they would have hit those free throws, they would have been in a situation in the final seconds that could have resulted in more of a game-changing possession. Then, if you add in the fact that L.A. corralled 17 offensive rebounds—snagging two or three on enough possessions that resulted in baskets—and the Wolves could have put themselves in even better position to win had they boxed out and gotten those defensive boards. But more than anything, if the Wolves allow the Hornets to build a 29-point cushion in the first half like the Lakers did last night, we’re in for another tough one at Target Center.

On the rebounding front, we highlighted Nikola Pekovic against Robin Lopez for tonight’s Scouting Report matchup to watch. Lopez is another 7-footer that has length in the paint, but look for Pekovic to provide a little physicality tonight and change the team’s fortunes on the glass. Minnesota was out-rebounded by 17 last night. I don’t expect to see that again.

We’ll hear from both Wolves coach Rick Adelman and Hornets coach Monty Williams pregame in about an hour. Stay tuned for updates throughout the night right here on the GameDay blog.

Here are a few pregame notes for tonight’s game:

  • The Wolves trail in the all-time series 25-35, but are 15-14 at home. The teams have split the two previous meetings this season: the Wolves won 113-102 at New Orleans on Dec. 14 behind a career-high 3 points from Nikola Pekovic, and lost 104-92 at New Orleans on Jan. 11. New Orleans is 4-1 in the last five meetings at Target Center.


  • The Wolves enter tonight in the 12th position in the Western Conference, 5.5 games behind Houston for the final playoff spot. Minnesota is 11-9 at Target Center this season.


  • Andrei Kirilenko is shooting 60.3% (53-for-88) in his last eight games at Target Center. He ranks 26th in the NBA in FG% (51.2), 22nd in steals (1.54 spg) and 27th in blocks (1.18 bpg).


  • Nikola Pekovic is averaging 17.9 points, on 53.3% shooting, and 10.0 rebounds over his last 20 games (11 double-doubles).


  • J.J. Barea has scored in double figures in nine of the last 10 games, averaging 13.6 points and 4.7 assists over that stretch. Barea is a team-leading +19 when on the floor this season.


  • Over the last three games, Ricky Rubio is averaging 10.7 points, on 44.4% shooting, 6.3 assists and 3.0 steals in 28.7 minutes per game. He has dished out 6+ assists in nine of the last 10 contests. Since the start of 2011-2012 season, Rubio has registered 6+ assists in 75% of his games, 6th best in the NBA during that span.


  • Alexey Shved tallied a career-high five three-pointers last night vs. the Lakers, and added six assists and four rebounds. Among rookies, he ranks 5th in scoring (10.9 ppg) and 2nd in assists (4.6 apg). Shved will represent the Wolves in the Rising Stars Challenge on Feb. 16 during All-Star Weekend in Houston


  • Chris Johnson has played in six games since signing with the Wolves on Jan, 19, averaging 9.0 points, on 72.4% shooting, and 4.0 rebounds in 16.2 minutes per game.


  • New Orleans is 15-32 overall this season, including 8-17 on the road. The Hornets are 3-12 on the road vs. Western Conference teams this season. New Orleans is 1-18 on the season when its opponent scores 100+ points.


  • Ryan Anderson leads the NBA with 140 three-pointers made. He has made 3+ treys in the last four games, shooting 48.5% (16-for-33) from beyond the arc over that span. He has made 3+ treys in a game 28 times this season and 5+ three-pointers 10 times.


  • Greivis Vasquez has recorded 10+ assists 21 times this season, including six times in the last eight games – averaging 11.4 apg over that stretch.


  • Vasquez has recorded 29 assists in the two meetings vs. Minnesota this season, including a career-high 16 on Dec. 14.



  • For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at WolvesNation.com.