GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. Mavericks - Dec. 15, 2012

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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End OT: That's the ballgame, folks. The Wolves wrapped up a 114-106 overtime win over the Mavericks tonight in Rubio's season debut. Pekovic led the team with 21 points, while Shved had 18, Williams had 16, Ridnour had 15 and AK had 14. Nice win for Minnesota, their fourth straight victory. Check back to Timberwolves.com for full analysis, photos, highlights and interviews throughout the night. MIN 114, DAL 106

OT 43.3: Timeout on the floor here with less than 45 seconds left. The Wolves are getting big production out of Nikola Pekovic again tonight, who has 21 points and eight boards. He just willed a ball into the basket and drew the foul, and after his free throw the Wolves opened up a 10-point lead. Keys to this OT have been Pek, Shved and Kirilenko, who have all been active and gotten extra-effort looks at the basket. MIN 112, DAL 104

OT 3:18: Alexey Shved led off OT with a dunk right off the tip, and the Wolves are currently on a 6-0 run after a pair of free throws from Kirilenko and a hoop and the foul for AK. He's headed to the line after this timeout trying for his fifth point of OT. MIN 108, DAL 102

End Regulation: The Wolves got several good looks in the last 34 seconds, including two shot clocks and a handful of tip-in chances as time expired that didn't fall. Rubio had a good look from 3 that didn't connect. We're headed to OT. MIN 102, DAL 102

Q4 34.1: The Wolves just forced a miss by O.J. Mayo and Rubio grabbed the rebound. Wolves ball. MIN 102, DAL 102

Q4 49.6: Down 102-100, Pekovic looked like he had an apparent game-tying lay-up but was called for a jump ball with Elton Brand. Pekovic won the jump, Rubio ran it down and then found Pekovic wide open in the lane for two. We've got a tie game, Mavericks' ball with 49.6 left. MIN 102, DAL 102

Q4 2:50: Derek Fisher just knocked down a 3-pointer and got fouled by Rubio, giving the Mavs a one-point lead as Fisher heads to the line after the timeout. Also noteworthy that Vince Carter fouled out moments ago. We're in for a tight finish here. DAL 97, MIN 96

Q4 4:47: It seems like we're going to have a tight finish here at Target Center. The Wolves brought the lead up to eight thanks to an off-balance 3-pointer by Luke Ridnour with time expiring on the shot clock, but Vince Carter responded with a 3-pointer of his own to cut the lead to 93-88. MIN 93, DAL 88

Q4 8:16: If Rubio doesn't return to the game (he's at 16 minutes right now and is on the bench), he'll have finished his first game with six points, eight assists, three rebounds and two steals. Pretty solid numbers considering he had about three other extraordinary passes that were not converted into field goals. Overall his court vision is there, his defensive intensity is there and his intangible presence is felt in the team's ball movement. It's good to have him back, and this Target Center crowd can feel it. MIN 87, DAL 78

End Q3: A quick Rubio update for all you curious folks out there. He's got seven assists in about 11 minutes tonight on the court and also has six points. Not a bad debut for Mr. Rubio. He also hit the floor earlier in about the same spot where he injured his knee last March. He got up no problem. Good for the fans to see him do that and get back up without trouble. Other notes: Pekovic had 10 points in the third quarter and he leads the way with 16 points tonight. Shved has 15, D-Will has 12 and Ridnour has 10. For the Mavs, Mayo has 16, Marion 14, Kaman and Fisher 11 each. MIN 80, DAL 70

Q3 7:35: The Wolves are sitting on a 13-point lead thanks to a big push by Nikola Pekovic early on here. He's scored eight points in the first 4 1/2 minutes of the third, bruising his way to the basket and opening up the Wolves' biggest lead of the night. MIN 68, DAL 55

Halftime: The Wolves ended the half on a 17-6 run and have a 54-45 lead at the half over the Mavericks. Nice end to the first 24 minutes as Minnesota struggled from the field early in the first and spotted the Mavs an early 13-point lead. But ball movement really picked up in the second, thanks in large part to Rubio returning to the court and a crafty combination of Rubio, Shved and Barea on the perimeter. They gave up size, but they made up for it with their aggressive play and court vision. Shved by the way is the game's leading scorer with 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting, and he's 3-of-3 from 3-point range. D-Will is another pleasant surprise. In Love absence and with Cunningham getting the nod at the 4, Williams has played 13 minutes, is 4-of-7 from the field and has 12 points. He's been incredibly aggressive attacking the rim, a really good sign for the Wolves. His biggest thing has been consistency, so we'll see how he reacts in the second half. Meanwhile, Chris Kaman and Derek Fisher each have nine for the Mavs, while Mayo has seven and Marion has six. The Wolves have a 24-12 points in the paint advantage and have benefited from 11 Mavericks turnovers. MIN 54, DAL 45

Q2 2:22: The Wolves are holding a one-point lead and have one fiery crowd behind them as they near the end of the first half. Aside from Shved's 15 points, all Wolves players on the scoreboard are contributing about four points apiece, giving Minnesota a pretty good offensive balance. Derrick Williams in particular is raising a few eyebrows tonight. He's 3-of-6 with six points, but even when he has missed (including an explosive attempt at a dunk in the first) he hasn't been too far off. Showing aggressiveness in his post up moves and his drives to the hoop. Just knocked down a pair of free throws giving him eight points as we resume play. MIN 48, DAL 45

Q2 5:51: Rubio just called to the bullpen, appeared to be tired and asked for a little rest. Ridnour checked back in, and moments later Alexey Shved knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Wolves a 40-39 lead--their first since early in the first quarter. Shved, by the way, is 3-of-3 from 3-point range tonight with 15 points. He's the only player on either team in double figures. He's also 6-of-7 from 3-point range in the last six quarters. MIN 40, DAL 39

Q2 7:58: The Wolves' bench is really adding a spark here, and they've helped cut the Mavs lead down to 36-33 after Dallas had opened up a 13-point advantage earlier. Stiemsma, Barea and Williams are all plus-10 tonight while Rubio is plus-seven. By the way, Rubio's minute count is already up to six and he's playing awfully well. Will be interesting to see if Adelman saves him at any point so he can use him in the fourth quarter. Right now hard to argue with the production as the Wolves are coming back. DAL 36, MIN 33

Q2 9:56: Rubio is turning the Target Center into about 19,000 proud parents all in amazement of his every move, mostly because everything he's doing right now is golden. He just knocked down his first field goal of the season, and then turned around and hit Greg Stiemsma under the basket with a between the legs pass. The Wovles are going small right now with Rubio, Shved and Barea all on the floor with Stiemsma and D-Will. But I'll tell you, the coaches and teammates have said all along that Rubio never lost his court vision or awareness, and he's showing everyone in the house tonight that is absolutely the case. Nice work so far in his debut. DAL 36, MIN 29

End Q1: The Wolves are trailing by 10 heading into the second, but that hasn't deterred the fans from getting into Rubio's return. He got a standing ovation when he entered the game with about 2 minutes left in the quarter, and he got more love when he hit a pair of free throws and when he hit JJ Barea for his first assist, which was credited to him after a goaltend call. The Wolves are having trouble with the Mavs on the defensive end, however, and offensively they were having trouble moving the ball until Rubio hit the floor. Shved led the way with 8 points at the end of the 1st, while Kirilenko had four. The Mavs were led by Kaman's eight, Fisher's seven and Marion's six. DAL 32, MIN 22

Q1 4:13: Alexey Shved is helping the Wolves climb back after they fell behind by double-digits early in the first. He hit a 3-pointer two possessions ago, and after a Dante Cunningham steal Shved hit Andrei Kirilenko for an alley-oop jam on the fast break. DAL 20, MIN 14

Q1 5:56: Early on in the first the Wolves are having trouble getting their offense kick-started. They're 3-of-11 to start the game and are trailing 18-7 in the game's first timeout. No Wolves have more than two points (DC, Pek & Ridnour each have two). Derek Fisher, meanwhile, has seven points for the Mavs and O.J. Mayo has five. Mavericks already are 2-of-2 from 3-point range after going 0-for-13 last night. DAL 18, MIN 7

Pregame 7:10 PM: Tonight's Starters:

Mavericks: PG-Derek Fisher, SG-O.J. Mayo, SF-Dahntay Jones, PF-Shawn Marion, C-Chris Kaman

Wolves: PG-Luke Ridnour, SG-Alexey Shved, SF-Andrei Kirilenko, PF-Dante Cunningham, C-Nikola Pekovic

Pregame 6:50 PM: According to the Timberwolves' Public Relations department, Kevin Love will not play tonight with flu-like symptoms. Dante Cunningham will start in his place, a change from earlier in the year when Love missed nine games and Derrick Williams got the nod. Unfortunate that in Rubio's return Love will be out.

Pregame 6:30 PM: Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said the Timberwolves were playing awfully well prior to Rubio’s return. Add him into the mix and things get a little more unpredictable.

“Just getting him back helps juice them up a little bit more,” Carlisle said. “He had a terrific year last year, he’s a great pace creator on offense, great passer and he established last year that he was a pretty darn good scorer, too.”

The Mavs are coming in knowing Target Center will likely have an amped up environment tonight, and they’ll plan accordingly. No word on if Love will play tonight, but stemming from Minnesota’s 90-82 win in Dallas last month Carlisle got a chance to see what the Wolves can do first hand. He said there are enough producers across the board.

“Kirilenko's great too, and they've got a lot of other really good guys, too,” Carlisle said. “They're going to be a better team in terms of their personnel, and who's available, we understand that. Barea didn't play last game and he's been playing well, you know so, they got a lot of weapons, and we got to be ready to throw the kitchen sink in.”

Another player who Carlisle knows awfully well is JJ Barea, a key bench player during the Mavericks’ 2011 championship run. Barea has played consistently well on offense both as a scorer and a passer in the past two weeks, and Carlisle said he knows all too well what Barea can do.

He said Barea is on a short list of the best players in the NBA for getting the ball into the paint.

“He's up there, Chris Paul's up there, there's two or three other guys, and their names escape me at the moment,” Carlisle said. “But he's a specialist, and our job is going to be to keep him out of there, because when he gets in there, he causes all kinds of problems.”

Pregame 6:20 PM: With a sea of reporters huddled around him moments ago, coach Rick Adelman noticed Ricky Rubio walking down the stairs in the Target Center's back hallway, raised his voice and raised his voice just a bit.

"I'm tired of talking about him," Adelman joked.

"Sorry, coach," Rubio chimed back, smiling.

Not a whole lot of other topics came up pregame for Adelman, who said Rubio will be coming off the bench and is still targeting his 16-18 minute range tonight as the Wolves face the Mavs. He'll likely come off the bench with JJ Barea to give starters Luke Ridnour and Alexey Shved a breather, and it makes it easier to navigate those 16-18 minutes if he's coming off the bench rather than working from the starter's role.

"It's really difficult to start someone and tell them you're only going to play them 18 minutes, that's the hardest thing," Adelman said. "If you want to get a good run in, bringing him in off the bench is the best thing to do because you have the first quarter timeout, you have the quarter timeout, you have the start of the second quarter there's a timeout."

Adelman said the biggest reason for choosing Saturday is targeting how he's practicing and playing as well as finding a point where the Wolves have an off day afterwards to see how he reacts. He will likely not play in both the Orlando and Miami games on back to back nights this week.

As for tonight, Adelman said there is no way to fully contain the emotions Rubio will be feeling as he gets back on the court.

"I can talk to him about that but it’s not going to happen. He’s going to do his thing. I think that’s the biggest thing," Adelman said. "I like the way we’re doing it because I think the first 4-5 minutes he’s going to be revved up. Then we’ll have the timeouts and he’ll calm down. But he’s a really mature young man and he understands everything he’s got to go through here. We’ve talked about that. But he’s only going to play one way, and that benefits us."

Pregame 4:30 PM: Here are a few pregame notes to keep in mind tonight:

  • The Wolves trail in the series, 40-55, and are 20-27 at home. The Wolves have won three of the last four games in the series, including a 90-82 victory at Dallas on Nov. 12, 2012.


  • Minnesota is trying to win its fourth straight game tonight. The team's last four-game winning streak was Jan. 29 - Feb. 6, 2010. If the Wolves win tonight to go three games over .500, it will be the first time at that mark since being 19-16 on Jan. 13, 2007.


  • The Wolves rank 4th in the NBA in scoring defense, allowing just 93.1 points per game, 11th in opponents' field goal percentage at 44.0%, 4th in rebounding at 45.25 rpg and 8th in blocked shots at 6.15 bpg.


  • Minnesota outrebounded the Hornets by 10 (40-30) last night, the 9th double-digit margin of the season in 20 games. The Wolves had 10 such games in 2011-12.


  • The Wolves rank 3rd in the NBA in free throw attempts per game (27.1) and have allowed the fewest free throw attempts (19.5). Minnesota has attempted 30+ FTs in a game nine times this season and allowed less than 20 FTs in a game 11 times.


  • Minnesota outscored New Orleans in the paint last night 70-42, the team's top single-game total since records in this category started in 1996. Minnesota is averaging 52.5 points in the paint the last four games, topping 50+ three times.


  • Luke Ridnour has scored in double figures in the last eight games, averaging 13.8 ppg, on 44-for-81 (54.3%) shooting, and 5.5 apg over that span. He is 5-for--6 from three-point range over the last two games.


  • J.J. Barea has scored in double-digits the last six games, averaging 12.5 points, on 30-for-57 (52.6%) shooting, and 5.5 assists over that stretch.


  • Dallas has a record of 11-12, including 4-9 on the road. This is the final game of a three-game road trip (0-2) for the Mavs. Dallas has lost six games by 19+ points this season.


  • The Mavs rank 2nd in the NBA in fast break points at 17.3 per game. They rank 5th in the league in bench scoring at 41.3 per game.


  • O.J. Mayo ranks 2nd in the NBA in three pointers made (64) and three-point field goal percentage (.508). He has scored 25+ points seven times this season, and has increased his scoring from 12.6 ppg in 2011-12 to 20.4 ppg this year.


  • Shawn Marion has had point/rebound double-doubles the last two games (3 on the season) He has scored in double figures in seven of the last eight games.


  • Pregame 3:35 PM: Latest news on the injury front: Forward Kevin Love is probable tonight against Dallas after suffering a right thumb contusion in the fourth quarter last night against New Orleans. It happened as Austin Rivers drove to the basket with about 1:20 remaining, and Love immediately left the court. X-rays were negative and he left the Big Easy listed as day-to-day. On the other hand, forward Josh Howard is listed as out tonight after suffering a hyper-extended right knee in the first half last night.

    That makes rotations interesting on the wing as Malcolm Lee is already out indefinitely and, of course, Chase Budinger and Brandon Roy are still unavailable. It's pretty timely in this instance that Rubio is returning, because last night Rick Adelman started using a two point guard back court with Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea after Howard excited the game. He did it a lot last year out of performance necessity, but this year he's been able to maneuver without playing them side-by-side in order to get some rest on the bench. But with Rubio coming back, albeit likely in a limited role, it gives the Wolves another ball handler that can allow Adelman to possibly move Ridnour to the 2 at certain points. Adelman has commented on how much he likes Ridnour off the ball because he's probably the team's best spot-up shooter, and he is starting to look more comfortable with his shot after battling back issues earlier in the fall. Could be an option tonight with limited options at shooting guard. Alexey Shved got his first career start there last night and he's projected to do so again tonight. He made good on his opportunity, finishing with 13 points, 8 assists and 2 steals while connecting on 3-of-4 from 3-point range.

    Pregame 1:20 PM: Welcome to Target Center as the Timberwolves get set to face the Dallas Mavericks tonight at 7 p.m. If you’re a Wolves fan this is the night you’ve been waiting for since March. Ricky Rubio is scheduled to make his return tonight against the Mavs, marking the first time since March 9 against the Los Angeles Lakers he’ll step on the court for an NBA game.

    No word yet on how much he’ll play, though the initial idea that President of Basketball Operations David Kahn said in late November was about 16-18 minutes. We’ll find out more during pregame if Rubio will start or come off the bench, though I’d expect the latter considering the way in which the team, trainers and medical staff have approached his return. They want to ease into this process as much as possible.

    To get the day started, check out Timberwolves.com’s Road To Recovery: Part III looking back at Rubio’s last couple months and his view on how the next phase in this process is just beginning. Also take a look at Rubio’s Recovery In Photos Gallery or check out the official Press Release on his return.

    Should be a packed house tonight, and you can follow along all day right here at Timberwolves.com to get all the pregame updates as well as in-game analysis. We’ll be running this blog throughout the night so stay here for full coverage. Tonight’s game will be on My29 as well as 830 WCCO-AM and the Wolves Radio Network.


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