GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. Hornets - March 17, 2013

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Final: That's the ballgame, folks. AK puts together two huge defensive plays to help preserve this 97-95 win. AK swatted Gordon's drive with Minnesota up by one, hit 1-of-2 free throws and then got a piece of New Orleans' last-second 3-point attempt. You could see the emotion in AK's face when he got that hand on that last shot. D-Will leads the way with 28 points on the offensive end. More analysis, postgame highlights, photos and interviews to come on Timberwolves.com throughout the night. MIN 97, NOH 95

Q4 14.5: Pek gets a huge offensive rebound off a D-Will miss, gets fouled and makes both free throws on the line. It's a one-point Wolves lead. MIN 96, NOH 95

Q4 48.7: Big possession there. Rubio took it all the way to the hoop with a hard drive, made the layup and drew the foul. He hit from the line, and it's all of a sudden 95-94 with 48.7 left. The Hornets have the ball coming out of the timeout. NOH 95, MIN 94

Q4 1:25: Ricky Rubio just saved two points after his turnover led to an Aminu layup attempt in transition. Rubio fouled Aminu, who subsequently missed both free throws. The Wolves got the rebound and called timeout, and they're drawing up a play with 1:25 left on the clock. NOH 93, MIN 91

Q4 2:06: Rebounds will be crucial in these final two minutes with the Wolves trailing 93-90. New Orleans currently has a 39-22 advantage on the glass and have corralled 20 offensive rebounds. We returned to the action as D-Will hits 1-of-2 free throws. He's got 28 tonight, a new career high. NOH 93, MIN 91

Q4 7:50: The last time the Wolves won on St. Patrick's Day was 2008 against the Clippers. They are 4-6 lifetime on St. Patty's Day, and in a tight game AK just helped Minnesota inch closer to another green victory. He just drove to the hoop, got the basket and drew the foul. He completed the three-point play, giving Minnesota a three-point lead. AK now is up to 7 points on 3-of-5 shooting and has four rebounds. All those points and all but one of those rebounds have happened in the second half. MIN 83, NOH 80

End Q3: What a lob from Ricky Rubio to Chris Johnson near the end of the third quarter as CJ threw down a vicious alley-oop jam. It's great to see the type of athleticism the Wolves can put in that 5 spot when CJ is on the court. He can run the floor with the best of them, and he and D-Will are primary targets in the fast break for Mr. Rubio. Speaking of D-Will, he's got 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting and has hit 3-of-4 shots from 3-point range. He's also 5-of-6 from the line and has five boards. Ridnour has 10 points and just had a sweet baseline drive for two, while Rubio has 11 points and six boards. For the Hornets, Lopez leads the way with 18 points, Davis has 13 and Vasquez has 11. Barea, Shved, Gelly, D-Will and DC all on the floor to start the fourth. MIN 76, NOH 73

Q3 6:28: I think we just found our play of the game for the evening as Derrick Williams just threw down a dunk in which his body was almost horizontal to the ground when he put the ball through the hoop. Unbelievably athletic play by Williams, who now has 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field. He also is 4-of-4 from the line. Really nice night for D-Will so far. Meanwhile, the Wolves are now up 63-62. The team as a whole is shooting 60 percent from the field. MIN 63, NOH 62

Halftime: The Wolves are trailing 52-50 but have responded to New Orleans' runs throughout the first two quarters. The Hornets currently hold an 18-11 rebounding advantage and have 10 offensive boards on the night. Derrick Williams leads the team with 11 points, while Pekovic has nine points and four boards and Rubio has nine points and two assists. Vasquez has 10 points for the Hornets, while Davis and Lopez each have eight. New Orleans has 16 points off the bench led by Roberts' five, and they have a 36-24 points in the paint advantage over the Wolves. NOH 52, MIN 50

Q2 6:14: New Orleans is currently on a 9-0 run that has put them up four as we hit the midway point of the second quarter, thanks in part to Brian Roberts entering the game and putting up five points on 2-of-3 shooting over six minutes. Lou Amundson has also scored four points on 2-of-2 shooting, and the Hornets are getting a little boost from their bench. Meanwhile, Alexey Shved is 1-of-2 from 3-point range, J.J. Barea has four points--all on free throws--and Dante Cunningham has four on 2-of-3 shooting. AK isn't filling the stat sheet yet in his return, but he is providing nice touch passing that is a staple of his offensive production on the court. NOH 43, MIN 39

End Q1: Derrick Williams gave Minnesota the lead heading into the second quarter with a pair of baskets to end the first. He took a feed from J.J. Barea and threw down a backboard-rattling jam on the Wolves' second to last possession of the quarter. After a Vasquez basket gave the Hornets a two-point lead, Williams was the recipient of strong ball movement from Barea to Gelabale to Williams as D-Will hit a 3-pointer with 2.4 seconds left on the clock. Minnesota shot 12-of-18 for the quarter, while the Hornets shot 13-of-22. The Wolves open up the second wiht Brea, Shved, Gelabale, Cunningham and Stiemsma on the court. MIN 28, NOH 27

Q1 5:46: Both teams starting out shooting well from the floor. New Orleans opened up 4-of-4 and has since cooled down with 2-of-5 shooting over the last few minutes, bu they're still holding a 13-9 lead early on in the quarter. Vasquez and Gordon each are shooting 2-of-3 with nine combined points, while Anthony Davis is 2-of-2 w/ four points. Minnesota is led by Pek's five points on 2-of-3 shooting, while Ridnour and Rubio each have two. Nice to see Pek and AK back out on the court helping facilitate the offense. NOH 13, MIN 9

Starters:
Hornets:
PG-Greivis Vasquez, SG-Eric Gordon, SF-Al-Farouq Aminu, PF-Anthony Davis, C-Robin Lopez

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

Pregame 5:25 PM: Rick Adelman confirmed that center Nikola Pekovic and forward Andrei Kirilenko will both be available tonight against the Hornets, which is great news considering how important the boards have been in finding success against New Orleans this year. Neither has played in more than a week so conditioning could factor into how much they play, but Adelman did not necessarily put any restrictions on either player.

Pekovic and Kirilenko each stayed back during the Wolves' weekend road trip to work out and get prepped for their return. Pekovic said he plans to start tonight and doesn't have any pain in that abdominal strain. AK has missed time because of a strained left calf.

"They've worked out on their own, but we haven't really seen them play 5-on-5 or anything," Adelman said. "We'll have to see how they play when they get out there." With Pekovic and AK out over the past week, Minnesota has been missing the team's second-leading scorer and rebounder (Pekovic is averaging 15.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game) as well as the team's third leading scorer and third leading rebounder (AK: 13.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG).

They sat while teams like Indiana enjoyed an awfully large advantage in the paint. Now, tonight, the Wolves should hold an advantage on the glass, and a player like Kirilenko certainly helps with intangibles on the defensive end.

"We have two guys back in AK and Pek who give you a totally different outlook on how you play the game," Adelman said. "You have to try and fit them in. They can take some of the load off, but it will take some time to get their timing back."

Pekovic said it was tough looking on while the team struggled over the past week.

"I'm happy I can finish the season and play this last month with these guys," Pekovic said. "Watching those nine players fight every single night is hard."

Pregame 3:00 PM: Greetings, Wolves fans. Welcome to Target Center for tonight’s game between the Timberwolves and the New Orleans Hornets. This is the final meeting between these two teams, with Minnesota holding a 2-1 season series advantage heading into the finale. They defeated the Hornets on Dec. 14 in New Orleans (113-102) and at home on Feb. 2 (115-86), but lost in the Big Easy on Jan. 11 (104-92) during what would become a five-game losing streak.

The Wolves are currently on a two-game skid and are looking to turn things around in their lone home game before a three-game road trip this week.

The key during the three meetings this season between the Wolves and Hornets has been play in the paint. When Minnesota won those two games, they’ve dominated both on the boards and scoring around the basket. In two wins, the Wolves had an average of 13.0 more rebounds per game than New Orleans and an average of 27.0 more points in the paint than the Hornets. That was emphasized by a 70-42 points in the paint advantage during the Dec. 14 win.

During Minnesota’s one loss in January, New Orleans flipped the switch. They held an eight-point advantage in the paint and out-rebounded Minnesota by 13 on the glass.

Obviously Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko would help Minnesota’s cause in those areas, but they are still listed as doubtful on the injury report and might not play again. If that’s the case, Minnesota will need to try and combat New Orleans’ combination of Anthony Davis (7.9), Ryan Anderson (6.5) and Robin Lopez (5.3) on the glass with strong games by Derrick Williams, Dante Cunningham, Chris Johnson and Greg Stiemsma.

New Orleans comes into tonight with a 22-44 record, and they’re 10-24 on the road. They’ve lost two straight and are 3-7 in their last 10 games. Minnesota is 22-41 and are looking to pick up a victory at home before hitting the road for a game tomorrow night in Memphis. They’ll have games in Sacramento and Phoenix on Thursday and Friday before returning home against the Bulls on Sunday.

Here are a few pregame notes for tonight's contest:

  • The Wolves trail in the all-time series 26-35, but are 16-14 at home. The Wolves have won five of the last nine meetings, including two of three this season. All three meetings this season have been decided by double digits, including a 29-point (115-86) win by the Wolves on Feb. 2 -- Minnesota's largest margin of victory this season.

  • Ricky Rubio is averaging 18.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 9.7 assists over the last three games. He has recorded a triple-double and a double-double over this stretch. He has tallied nine double-doubles in the last 19 games.

  • Derrick Williams is averaging 16.8 points and 8.1 rebounds over the last 18 games. He has scored in double-digits the last 11 games -- the longest double-digit scoring streak of his career. Williams has been the Wolves' leading rebounder in five of the last 11 games.

  • Luke Ridnour is averaging 13.7 point on 56.3% shooting (18-for-32) in the last three games. He had averaged 9.5 points on 32.6% shooting in the previous four games.

  • Mickael Gelabale has started the last eight games, averaging 7.9 points, on 53.8% (28-for-52) shooting, and 4.0 rebounds.

  • J.J. Barea has scored in double-digits in eight of the last 10 games, averaging 13.8 points over that stretch, and recording 36 assists with just 12 turnovers.

  • Greg Stiemsma is averaging 9.8 points, on 54.8% shooting, and 6.6 rebounds over the last five games.

  • The Wolves have recorded fewer turnovers than their opponent in 10 of the last 12 games, averaging 13.4 turnovers per game compared to 18.0 for their opponents.

  • New Orleans is 1.5 games behind the Wolves in the Western Conference. The Hornets are 10-24 on the road, but just 3-16 vs. the West.

  • The Hornets rank 8th in the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage at 36.8% and 8th in blocked shots with 5.55 per game.

  • Anthony Davis is averaging 16.8 points, on 52.6% (40-for-76) shooting, 11.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks over the last six games. He has four double-doubles in that stretch (15 total).

  • Greivis Vasquez ranks first among guards (19th overall) with 24 double-doubles (Chris Paul 23). He is averaging 17.4 points, on 46.3% (50-for-108) shooting, with 9.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds. For the season, Vasquez ranks 3rd in the NBA with 9.4 assists per game

  • Ryan Anderson ranks 2nd in the NBA with 180 made 3-pointers (Curry, 203). He has recorded 18 games with 4+ made 3-pointers this season.


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