GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. Suns - April 13, 2013

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Final: The Wolves wrapped up their 30th win of the season with a 105-93 win over the Suns, effectively giving Minnesota a 3-1 season series win over Phoenix. The Wolves had a season-high 17 steals led by five from Rubio and four from D-Will. Rubio led all scorers with 24 points and added 10 assists and five rebounds. Barea had 16, D-Will had 15, AK had 14 and DC had 13. Look for full analysis, postgame interviews, highlights and photos throughout the night at Timberwolves.com. MIN 105, PHX 93

End Q3: Minnesota is holding a 36-18 advantage in the paint, and that's the difference right now in this one. Four of Minnesota's five starters are in double digits, led by Rubio and Derrick Williams with 15 each. Kirilenko and Ridnour each have 10. Rubio and Williams connected for an excellent highlight reel play midway through the quarter as Rubio dished off a no-look behind the back pass to D-Will for a vicious two-handed slam. For the Suns, Markieff Morris leads the team with 17 points, while Wes Johnson has 15 and Luis Scola has 14. MIN 77, PHX 73

Halftime: The Wolves have trailed by as many as 10 tonight, but a late surge brought them back to tie the game with 30 seconds left in the half. The Suns responded with a three that gave them a lead heading into halftime, but overall a good way to end the first half after a sluggish first half. Wes Johnson has slowed down and went 0-for-1 after a big first quarter, but Luis Scola now leads the Suns with 12 points while Johnson still has 11 and Morris has 10. Phoenix is shooting 55 percent from the field tonight. For the Wolves, Rubio leads the team with 13 points, while Kirilenko has eight, Derrick Williams and J.J. Barea each have seven and Dante Cunningham has five. Minnesota leading 15-9 in fast break points and have a 22-14 lead in the paint. PHX 53, MIN 50

End Q1: The Wolves are dealing with a Suns team that is shooting at a very irregular clip here. They're shooting 60 percent right now from the field and are getting an incredibly efficient effort out of Wes Johnson (5-of-6, 11 points). For the Wolves, Ricky Rubio has come out firing here in the first quarter. He is already 4-of-7 with eight poitns and four assists. Andrei Kirilenko has five points, while Derrick Williams has four. Minnesota once trailed by 10 but has trimmed it to six as we head into the second. PHX 28, MIN 22

Starters

Suns:
PG-Goran Dragic, SG-Wes Johnson, SF-P.J. Tucker, PF-Markieff Morris, C-Luis Scola

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

Pregame 6:55 PM: Wolves coach Rick Adelman said he plans to start Dante Cunningham at the 5 tonight in place of the injured Nikola Pekovic, and he's going small for a couple reasons. For one, the Suns are going to be playing small as well with the absence of Marcin Gortat. They've been starting power forward Luis Scola at the 5 since his injury. Second, the only true big the Wolves have on their roster that can step in and handle Jermaine O'Neal is Greg Stiemsma. With O'Neal coming off the bench, it doesn't help to have Stiemsma in the starting lineup. I'd imagine we'll see a Rubio, Ridnour, AK, D-Will, Cunningham starting lineup tonight.

On another note, more to come on Kevin Love's media session tonight. For starters, he did not use crutches tonight when walking with his wrapped left knee and he said he will not miss any normal offseason workouts because of the procedure. He said his ambitious nature is a big reason why he's reached the levels he has in his career, and that will be a big factor in getting himself ready for 2013-14.

He said he talked with owner Glen Taylor, President of Basketball Operations David Kahn and coach Rick Adelman about the procedure, and when it got to this late juncture and the pain was still very evident, it only made sense for them to proceed.

He didn't hide his frustration in missing so much of this season, especially with so many high hopes, but he did say there is a lot of optimism surrounding next year. "It's a big summer for us," he said. "Just getting back in shape, in a month luckily I'll have a clean bill of health and will be ready to go. I know this team is hungry, I'm hungry myself, and the only thing we can do now is look forward to the future."

Pregame 5:25 PM: A quick update here: Center Nikola Pekovic is out tonight against the Suns. He missed last night with a left calf contusion and will again be out of the lineup tonight. Look for more on this as we continue pregame news/notes. I'm headed over to Suns coach Lindsey Hunter's media availability right now followed by Rick Adelman at 5:45.

Pregame 4:00 PM: Welcome to Target Center for what will be the second to last home game of the regular season for the Minnesota Timberwolves. They’ll host the Phoenix Suns tonight at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM, and after a tough three-game winless stretch on the road this week Minnesota is hoping to get back on the right track tonight.

They’ll get their chance against a Phoenix team that beat the Mavs on Wednesday night—snapping a 10-game losing streak. They’ve still lost 14 of their last 16, and they’re struggling down low without Marcin Gortat at center as he hasn’t played since early March with a midfoot sprain. Wolves center Nikola Pekovic missed last night’s contest with a left calf contusion, but if he is able to play tonight (he’s questionable) it would provide a huge boost for the Wolves down low against this Suns squad.

One thing to look for tonight is the continued parade of former Wolves players we’ve seen over the last few games. The Wolves saw Ryan Hollins on Wednesday in LA on a Clippers roster that also includes injured guard Chauncey Billups. On Friday in Utah, Wolves fans saw Al Jefferson and Randy Foye on a Jazz team coached by former Wolves player Tyrone Corbin (former Wolves player/coach Sidney Lowe is an assistant for the Jazz, too). Utah will come through town Monday night for Fan Appreciation Night as well. And tonight, we’ll see Wes Johnson, Michael Beasley and Sebastian Telfair on the Suns’ roster.

Minnesota owns a 2-1 record against Phoenix this year, and they can secure the season series tonight with a victory. Their 111-107 win on Dec. 29 halted a six-game home losing streak to the Suns, and they can build on that tonight. Their lone loss to the Suns came in overtime on Feb. 26 (84-83), but they rebounded with a 117-86 win in Phoenix on March 22. In that last game, Andrei Kirilenko’s 20 points led seven double-figure scorers as the Wolves posted their second-largest road win in club history (117-86).

A couple things to watch for tonight: One, Kevin Love will speak to the media at 6:15 fresh off his successful knee surgery this week. Look for updates on that tonight on Timberwolves.com. Two, the Wolves will be honoring Rick Adelman for his 1,000th win before tonight’s tip. There will be a special in-game ceremony at about 6:50 that will likely include some of the congratulation messages we’ve compiled over the course of the season from Adelman’s current and former players, coaches, executives and peers. Should be a pretty cool ceremony.

Here are some notes to keep track of as we get set for tonight’s tipoff:

  • The Wolves trail in the all-time series 30-60, and are 17-26 at home. Minnesota has won three of the last five games in the series, including two of three this season.

  • Rick Adelman recorded his 1,000th NBA coaching win on April 6, 2013 with the Wolves' 107-101 win vs. Detroit. Adelman became the 8th NBA coach to reach this milestone.

  • The Wolves have forced more turnovers than they've committed in 22 of the last 28 games (three ties). They have a +3.4 turnovers-per-game edge (14.0-17.3) and a +4.8 points off turnovers (19.9-15.1) advantage in that stretch. Minnesota ranks 6th in the NBA in steals with 8.42 per game.

  • Minnesota is 6th in the NBA in free-throw attempts per game (25.2) and 5th in fewest free-throw attempts allowed per game (20.2).

  • Ricky Rubio is averaging 13.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 2.47 steals over the last 19 games. He ranks 2nd in the NBA with 2.37 steals per game and 8th in assists with 7.4 apg. He has tallied 10+ assists 14 times this season.

  • Nikola Pekovic was named Western Conference Player of the Week for April 1-7, averaging 25.0 points, on 58.9% shooting, and 8.5 rebounds as the Wolves recorded a 3-1 record. He has been the Wolves' leading scorer in seven of his last eight games, averaging 20.8 points, on 54.2% (58-for-107) shooting, and 9.6 rebounds over that span. He has recorded 26 double-doubles this season to rank 21st in the NBA. He also ranks 12th in the league with 230 offensive rebounds and 20th in field goal percentage at 52.0%.

  • Pekovic has grabbed an offensive rebound in the last 74 games he's played -- the 2nd longest active streak in the NBA (Kevin Love, 75).

  • J.J. Barea is averaging 17.0 points, on 49.0% (24-for-49) shooting, and 3.8 assists over the last four games. He tallied 20+ points in two of those four games. He set his career highs in free throws made and attempted by going 9-for-10 in last night's loss to Utah.

  • With a current record of 24-55 (11-27 under Lindsey Hunter), Phoenix will finish with its worst record since the team's inaugural season of 1968-69 when the team had a 16-66 record.

  • The Suns beat Dallas on Wednesday to snap a 10-game losing streak. Phoenix has lost 14 of its last 16 games.

  • Goran Dragic is averaging 20.4 points, on 52.7% (49-for-93) shooting from the field and 50.0% (10-for-20) shooting from three-point range, and 8.4 assists over the last seven games.

  • Wes Johnson is averaging 14.7 points over the last nine games, with three 20+ scoring efforts. He has scored in double-digits in 14 games this season, with all of them coming after the All-Star break.



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