GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves vs. Mavericks | Dec. 30, 2013

GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves vs. Mavericks | Dec. 30, 2013

Final: Love drew contact as time expired, but no call. Wolves fall 100-98. More to come on, so stay tuned. DAL 100, MIN 98

Q4 6.5: Pek scores a quick 2, and after a DAL miss the Wolves miss on the other end. But Dalembert travels, giving Wolves ball back with 6.5 left. Timeout on floor, Adelman drawing up play. DAL 100, MIN 98

Q4 47.5: The refs overturned a ball that was initially given to the Wolves out of bounds, and the Mavs turned it into a trip to the line for Dalembert. He hit both, and it's a 100-96 Mavs lead with 47.5 left. Wolves ball. DAL 100, MIN 96

Q4 3:43: Pivotal point in the game here for Minnesota. They've turned a 21-point deficit into a three-point lead, but right now Dallas pushed ahead and is up five with 3:43 left. Minnesota needs to ride out this run, get a couple stops and snatch back the momentum. Shawn Marion is the main culprit. He's now 14-of-18 (4-of-5 from 3) and had 32 points. A couple of those 3s came in just the last minute to give Dallas the five-point lead. DAL 95, MIN 90

Q4 5:36: Dallas is keeping this tight here. The Wolves were up by as many as three, but most recently Vince Carter drew a foul on Pek and made a pair of free throws. We've got a one-point Timberwolves lead with 5:36 left. This should be a pretty good ending here at Target Center.
MIN 90, DAL 89

Q4 9:43: Love is getting silly again. He's got 34--just hit a 3 to put the Wolves up for the first time this half. He's got 34 on 13-of-20 shooting, 10 boards and four assists. Meanwhile, K-Mart has 17, Brewer has 16 and Pek has 12. Stay tuned....this has the fixing for a good ending. MIN 86, DAL 85

End Q3: Don't look now but we've got a tie ballgame, folks. The Wolves trailed by 21 and looked down and out at one point tonight, but they crawled back thanks to some timely 3s by Brewer, interior play by Love and Pek and some nice court vision from Rubio. Love just found Brewer on the fast break to tie the game--a product of really nice D on Hummel leading to a double-team on Dirk that forced a late-shot clock kickout to Vince for a long 3 attempt. Off the miss, Love hit Brewer out in front for two, tying the game. The Target Center is getting loud. MIN 81, DAL 81

Q3 2:50: The Wolves cut the lead to six only to see the Mavs push it back to 11. But the Wolves pushed back. A couple corner 3s by Brewer and a nice feed to Love inside has the Wolves down 77-73 with 2:50 left in the third. All of a sudden there's a new vibe inside Target Center. Meanwhile, Rubio has just four points but has 11 assists and eight boards. If he gets his offense going in the final 14 minutes, we might be seeing a triple-double watch. We'll see. DAL 77, MIN 73

Q3 4:54 Minnesota currently on a 23-10 run here and we've got a 72-66 ballgame with 4:54 left in the third. DAL 72, MIN 66

Q3 6:49: The Wolves are showing some signs of picking up momentum here. After falling behind by as many as 21, the Wolves have this cut to 13 thanks to a couple nice plays. One was a steal by K-Mart that turned into a pair of FTs, and then Brewer drove baseline and scored. Minnesota needs to make some stops here and try to get this deficit back under 10 heading into the fourth. DAL 70, MIN 57

Halftime: Well that was a fitting end to the first half as Shawn Marion corralled a tipped ball from Monta Ellis and scored at the buzzer. He's had a hard time missing tonight from anywhere on the court, and he heads into the break with a game-high 21 on 10-of-12 shooting. Jose Calderon has a pair of 3-pointers that have been momentum-changers, and Dirk has six. For the Wolves, Love has 17, Pek has 10 and K-Mart has nine. The problem has been two-fold: One, not enough guys contributing offensively, and two, failure to get to the line. Minnesota had just eight free-throw attempts in the first half, and when they can't get to the line it really magnifies the fact that they're being out-shot 60 percent to 44 percent. One last thing the Wolves need to address in the third is the Mavs have a 34-22 advantage in the paint. DAL 62, MIN 43

Q2 3:40: Marion continues to thrive tonight....he's up to 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting, including a corner 3 moments ago. Nice start for him. Rubio answered right before this timeout with a sweet interior feed to Pek in the paint for two. Pek now has 10 to go along with Love's 15 and Martin's nine. Unfortunately, the rest of the team has a combined three points. DAL 47, MIN 37

Q2 5:42: Shaw Marion is getting loose in transition and in the half court tonight. He's got 12 on 6-of-8 shooting already tonight to go along with four boards. They've got to account for him a little better, because he's been very active tonight. Another one on Dallas that's doing work is Brandan Wright. He's got 10 on 4-of-6 shooting in seven minutes and has been to the line as well. Nice minutes for him off the bench. DAL 39, MIN 31

Q2 8:40: Pek just drew a foul on Vince Carter in the paint and got a high five from VC right afterwards. Kind of one of those "you got me" kind of looks. Carlisle has preached all day that the Mavs want to keep the Wolves off the line. They get to the stripe as well as anyone in the league thanks in part to Pek and Love. So far, Minnesota has just four FT attempts. DAL 33, IN 30

End Q1: After 1, the Wolves are trailing by six and the biggest detriment is their inability to keep the Mavs out of transition. Dallas is shooting 54.2 percent tonight and has eight fast-break points after 12 minutes. The Mavs also have an 18-12 advantage in the paint. Love has 12 points and Martin has nine. Martin has 10, and Wright has six for Dallas. DAL 29, MIN 23

Q1 2:54: I've had a few conversations lately about how Love is becoming one of the few scorers who can put up 30+ points without you hardly noticing he does it because of the fluidity of his offensive game. Tonight is looking like one of those nights where he's showing off that trait. He's got 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting at the moment, including hitting his first 3-pointer just seconds ago to knot the score at 23-23. Love has two boards and two assists to go with those 12 points. Meanwhile, Martin has nine and Pek has two. That's it for the scoring breakdown so far. The Wolves need to get others involved as we close out the first. For the Mavs, Marion has 10 and has benefited from pushing the pace and getting out in transition. MIN 23, DAL 23

Q1 5:22: Kevin Martin averages 29.5 points per game this year against the Mavs, and he's looking good again tonight against this Mavs' D. Martin is benefiting from baseline cuts left and right, and he's got nine on 4-of-6 shooting. Dirk said today that the Mavs aren't a great one-on-one defensive team and that they need all five collectively working together to be successful. That seems to be playing a role here tonight because K-Mart is getting loose. DAL 19, MIN 16


PG-Jose Calderon, SG-Monta Ellis, SF-Shawn Marion, PF-Dirk Nowitzki, C-SAmuel DAlembert

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

PREGAME 6:40 PM: Last post (I think) before starting lineups. We caught up with Rick Carlisle pregame--he's in my top 5 for favorite coaches to chat with, by the way...always good for a few one-liners--and he talked a little bit more about the dangers Love, Pek and K-Mart possess. As my friend Kyle Ratke tweeted a few minutes ago:

That's not lost on Carlisle. He knows Martin is averaging nearly 30 points a game against the Mavs this year.

"I'd say they're all giving us trouble, really," Carlisle said. "They've played two really good games, and we haven't."

As always, Carlisle was complimentary of Love and what he brings to the table, and he also talked a bit about Nowitzki and what he's meant to the game during his era. Love is a pretty good comparison to Nowitzki in a lot of ways, and as Carlisle said Nowitzki was the original that paved the way for a changing NBA landscape at the 4 position.

First, on Love:

"He's a statistical machine," Carlisle said. "He's scoring tons of points, he's getting tons of rebounds, he's getting a lot more assists this year, and he's the main trigger guy. So he's involved in just about everything, and now they're playing him at 5—with a sized down lineup causes problems as well because you bring quickness and you bring a more dynamic guy at the 4 position and he's inside and outside moving all over the place. He just, he gets better and better each year."

As for Nowitzki, Carlisle said he's redefined the position.

"Dirk's an original," Carlisle said. "There's only one Dirk Nowitzki. He's the great one. He's The Great Nowitzki."

We'll see The Great Nowitzki and K-Love tonight in about 20 minutes. Should be a great matchup.

PREGAME 6:15 PM: Coach Rick Adelman brought up a good point when asked about why the Wolves have matched up so well with the Mavericks this year. He said he's leery of pin-pointing one particular reason or formula, because you have to remember the Mavs haven't always been at full strength against Minnesota this year. Last time out in Dallas, starting point guard Jose Calderon did not play. Before that, Vince Carter was serving a suspension. So taking either one of those guys out of the equation adversely affects how the Mavericks play, particularly because both can drain a timely 3 if need be.

"[Calderon] handles the ball well and he's one of the best assist-to-turnover guys in the league, and he shoots 47 percent from 3," Adelman said. "With [Monta] Ellis and Dirk [Nowitzki] and Carter when he comes in, that gives them another guy that's a knockdown shooter. He really makes a difference on their team."

That's not to say the Wolves aren't in good shape tonight despite both Carter and Calderon being back in the lineup, because they are. Kevin Martin has really hurt the Mavericks this year (Rick Carlisle has talked at length about him today) scoring 29.5 points per game, and Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic have both taken their games to the next level over the past five games.

Part of it with Pek is the fact that he's getting more shot attempts. He's averaging 13.4 attempts per game for the season, but over his last five he's put up 18.0 attempts per night.

Adelman said the biggest reason for it is the team is playing better basketball.

"We're playing better, and guys are playing a little bit better," Adelman said. "Kevin with the roll he's been on certainly helps him because they've got to worry about him all the time as a stretch 4. And that opens it up for Pek inside, but I think guys are getting used to playing and figuring out what we have to do to be a good offensive team. And Pek certainly is a weapon that we've got to look to.

PREGAME 3:00 PM: Minnesota is averaging 114.0 points per game in two outings against the Mavericks this year—both Timberwolves wins. And this one might be the most important one yet.

Sitting two games behind Dallas for the eight spot in the Western Conference standings, the Wolves know head-to-head wins will be crucial when playoff positioning is determined in April.

“We’ve just got to understand the importance of a game like this,” Wolves guard Kevin Martin said. “We’re around .500, and we’re a playoff-caliber team. This team is young. I think they understand the importance of games like this that earlier in the season [they didn’t], but I think we understand it now.”

Minnesota sits 15-15 heading into tonight and are looking up at Dallas’ 17-13 record. But given the Wolves are 2-0 this season and 6-3 against Dallas over their last nine dating back to 2011-12, Minnesota certainly has a chance to come away with this home victory. Since Rick Adelman took over, there’s been a stark turnaround in good fortunes against Dallas. Before Adelman arrived, the Wolves lost 18 of their last 19 to the Mavs.

Clearly the Smash Brothers (Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic) down low have been huge over the past week, and if Love (31.4 ppg, 14.6 rpg) and Pek (24.6 ppg, 11.4 rpg) continue putting up the numbers they’ve produced over the past five games, it will put a ton of pressure on the Mavs’ interior defense. But Martin is just as crucial. He’s averaged 29.5 points per game over his two contests against Dallas this year and is shooting 6-of-11 from 3-point range.

“They’ve been putting up 100-120 every night, and I think they’re a tough team to deal with for us on the defensive side,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “They’ve beat us twice already. So you know, we’ve got to do a better job defensively and get some stops when we need to. I thought last game here we were in the game in the fourth quarter but we couldn’t get a stop that gets us into the game. So hopefully we’ll do a better job of that tonight.”

For the Wolves, Nowitzki (21.5 ppg) is obviously a top focus of containment. But Monta Ellis is averaging 20.7 points per contest, and Jose Calderon, Vince Carter, Brandan Wright and Shawn Marion are all in double-figures for the year. Carter, if you remember, did not play the last time Dallas was in town due to a suspension stemming from an elbow thrown in a previous game. He did play in their last meeting in Dallas.

“They’ve been playing good basketball,” Love said. “Carlisle is a great coach. Especially beating them twice—one at their place, one on our home floor—we know that it’ll be a battle tonight. We’re looking forward to it.”

Also tonight, former Wolves guard Wayne Ellington is expected to be available. He’s missed four of the past five games, most recently missing time due to illness. For the Wolves, we noted earlier that Ronny Turiaf and Chase Budinger were both participating in contact 3-on-3 drills today after shootaround. Neither will be available tonight, but it’s encouraging to see them getting closer.

PREGAME 1:00 PM: Dirk Nowitzki can sometimes be humble to a fault. The future Hall of Famer fielded a question this morning at shootaround about his iconic fallaway, one-legged shot that propelled him to 11 All-Star Games, the 2006-07 MVP and the 2011 NBA championship—the latest in the long line of elite players using that shot being Wolves forward Kevin Love.

“That’s a good shot to have,” Nowitzki said, smiling.

Tonight, the Wolves and Mavericks will square off for the third time this season, and if Minnesota is able to pull off the victory it will mark the first time since 1996-97 that the Timberwolves have beaten Dallas three times in one season. Part of that has been due to Love’s brilliance in those two contests—he put up 32 points, 15 boards and eight assists in their 116-108 win on Nov. 8 in Minneapolis and followed it up with 21 points and 11 boards in the 112-106 win on Nov. 30 in Dallas.

Over the past 10 games, Love is averaging 25 points and eight boards—only Shaquille O’Neal has done that in the past 20 years. He’s had at least 30 points or 10 rebounds in each of his 29 games starting this season, the most since Bill Walton did it 34 times to start the 1976-77 campaign. And he’s currently averaging 26.3 points, 13.8 rebounds and 4.2 boards—the last player to average 26/13/4 over the course of a season was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975-76.

The list keeps piling up.

“He’s a handful,” said forward Shawn Marion, who will likely be guarding Love much of the night tonight. “He’s a talented guy, man. We know we’re looking for him and the other big boy, Pekovic. Both of them are handfuls, and they’re physical and they go after the rebounds. It’s going to be a battle.”

Right on cue, here’s Nikola Pekovic.

The Wolves’ center is putting together his best play of the season, and it’s causing issues for opposing front courts on a nightly basis. Because while Love is averaging 31.4 points and 14.6 boards per night over his last five games, Pekovic has added in 24.6 points and 11.4 boards during that span.

Not exactly an easy duo to handle.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said over a five-game stretch, he’s hard-pressed to think of a front court duo in NBA history that has played better. The biggest reason for Pekovic’s monster numbers right now, both Carlisle and Marion said, was the number of touches he’s getting. They’re right. For the season, Pekovic is averaging 17.5 points on 13.4 shots per game. Over the past five contests, he’s put up 24.6 points on 18 shots per night.

“They’ve gone to him in a lot of late-game situations,” Carlisle said. “He’s improving his game, and he’s become a more diverse post player. We’re going to have to not only guard him when he has the ball but we’re going to try to keep him from getting the ball in his sweet spots—which is hard to do.”

Love and Pekovic will be two important pieces of the Wolves’ attack tonight, as will the production of Kevin Martin outside. Martin is averaging 29.5 points per game in two contests against the Mavs this season, including hitting 6-of-11 from 3-point range.

He’s cooled off this month (23.1 points per game on 44.8 percent 3-point shooting in November vs. 14.9 ppg on 33.3 percent 3-point shooting in December), but Martin is still a viable threat from the outside with whom Dallas is still very much concerned.

“He’s averaging like 30 against us, so you know he’s a problem, too,” Carlisle said. “The big thing with these guys is you have to play without fouling. They get to the free-throw line way more than their opponents on a consistent basis. So that’s a big priority, you know, and they’re great at shot faking. They shoot it so well. They get a lot of people off their feet. We’ve got to stay on our feet. It’s a very challenging task.”

Check back for more on tonight’s game throughout the day, including a post a bit later on Love and Nowitzki. This is another great power forward battle, and there’s a lot of admiration between the two considering they do have similar abilities stretching the floor that others at their position do not possess.

Here are a few notes for tonight's game:

  • The Wolves trail in the all-time series 43-57, and are 22-28 at home. The Wolves have won six of the last nine meetings, including the two matchups this season. The last time the Wolves defeated Dallas three times in a season was 1996-97. The Wolves won 116-108 at Target Center on Nov. 8, 2013 as Kevin Love and Kevin Martin each scored 32 points. The Wolves prevailed 112-106 at American Airlines Center on Nov. 30, 2013 with Martin (27), Love (21) and Nikola Pekovic (21) all scoring 20+ points.

  • Wolves Notes

  • Kevin Love ranks 1st in the NBA in rebounding (13.8 rpg), 3rd in scoring (26.1 ppg), and is also averaging 4.2 assists (5th among forwards). The last player to averaging 26+ points, 13+ rebounds and 4+ assists over a full season was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975-76.

  • Love is averaging 32.0 points, on 52.4% (88-for-168) shooting, 13.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game over his last eight contests. He has a league-leading 27 double-doubles this year.

  • Love has scored 25+ points in 10 consecutive games, the longest such streak in the NBA this season and the longest in club history. Love also has recorded four 30+ point, 15+ rebound, 5+ assist games this season. The rest of the league has recorded two combined (Cousins, Howard).

  • Love has scored at least 30 points or pulled down 10 or more rebounds in all 29 games he's played this season. It’s the longest such streak to begin a season since Bill Walton registered 30 points or 10 rebounds in each of his first 34 games of the 1976-77 season for Portland.

  • Nikola Pekovic is averaging 24.6 points, on 55.6% (50-for-90) shooting, and 11.4 rebounds over the last five games. He has 15 double-doubles this season, including the last four games and 10 of the last 15 games.

  • Ricky Rubio ranks 2nd in the NBA in steals at 2.80 per game and 6th in assists with 8.1 apg and 21st in free-throw percentage at 85.2%. He tallied a season-high 6 steals Saturday in Milwaukee.

  • Rubio and Corey Brewer have combined for 133 steals this season -- the top duo in the NBA (Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are 2nd with 113).

  • The Wolves rank 2nd in the NBA in scoring (106.4), 3rd in rebounding (46.23) and 3rd in steals (9.30 spg). Minnesota is allowing its opponents an average of just 17.7 FTAs per game, fewest in the NBA.

  • Mavs Notes

  • With a 17-13 record, Dallas is currently in the 8th slot in the Western Conference, two games ahead of the Wolves. The Mavs are 6-9 on the road, 3-7 against the West.

  • The Mavs rank 5th in the NBA in field-goal percentage (46.8%), 7th in 3-point FG percentage (38.3%), 3rd in free-throw percentage (80.7%) and 2nd in steals (9.53).

  • Dirk Nowitzki is averaging 15.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game over his last four games against Minnesota. He had averaged 24.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game over his previous 32 games against the Wolves. Nowitzki needs two more offensive rebounds to pass James Donaldson (1,296), as the team's all-time leader.

  • Jose Calderon ranks 2nd in the NBA in 3-point FG percentage at 47.9% (78-for -163). He has eight games this season with at least four treys.

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