GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves vs. Wizards | Dec. 27, 2013

GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves vs. Wizards | Dec. 27, 2013

Final: That's a wrap, folks. The Wolves rout the Wizards 120-98 tonight here at Target Center as all five starters plus J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved hit double-digits. Love led the way with 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Pek had 18 points and 10 boards, K-Mart had 12 points, Rubio had 11 points, nine assists and eight boards and Brewer had 10 points. Off the bench, Barea finished with 17 points and Shved had 13. John Wall scored 22 of his 26 points in the first half, but the Wolves really contained him in the third and fourth. Nice win for Minnesota. Check back throughout the night for more from this win on MIN 120, WAS 98

Q4 5:52: With the Wolves up 19 and six minutes to play, we might not be seeing any more Love and Rubio tonight. That's fine, as they've already put together nice outings (Love 25 points, 11 boards and Rubio 11 points, nine assists and eight rebounds). Rubio did have a legit chance to put together his third career triple-double tonight if the starters did play the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Barea is lighting it up with 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting. Really nice to see him get going here tonight. MIN 104, WAS 85

Q4 8:47: Barea continues to make an impact tonight. He just penetrated and scored on a nice drive moments ago, and he's got 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting tonight. All five starters are in double figures, too, led by Love's 25 and Pek's 16. MIN 97, WAS 79

End Q3: Minnesota leads by 14 as we head into the fourth. You've got to expect another run from Washington here, and the Wolves hope to sustain it. Love has 23 points and 10 boards, pushing his streak to start the season with at least 10 rebounds or 30 points in each game to 28. That's the most in the NBA since 34 by Bill Walton in 1976-77. He continues to do things we haven't seen in the league in some time. Pek has 16 points and nine boards, and Rubio has 11 points, nine assists and 8 rebounds. Triple-double watch is on. MIN 88, WAS 74

Q3 2:39: As the Gopher football team fell to Syracuse 21-17 in the Texas Bowl, the Wolves are harboring an 82-66 lead with 2:39 left in the third. Rubio has a pretty balanced stat line right now with nine points, eight assists and six boards. Keep an eye on him, because we've got a triple-double watch ahead of us here in the final 14 1/2 minutes of this one. MIN 82, WAS 66

Q3 9:47: This is an important 12 minutes for the Wolves. Minnesota is second in the league in third quarter points per game this year, and they'll want to come out and set the tone intensity-wise in this half with a good third here tonight. The Wizards gained ground and eventually won the game back in November thanks to a do-or-die mentality in the second half. Minnesota opened up this quarter extending its lead to 17 points. Good start, but they need to keep it going. MIN 66, WAS 49

Halftime: Minnesota shot 14-for-23 in the second after hitting just 28 percent of its shots in the first, and that paid some major dividends. The Wolves now have a game-high 14-point lead at the break, led by 18 points and seven boards from Love and 12 points and seven boards from Pek. But again, a nice pick-me-up from Barea (six pts), Shved (4 pts) & DC (6 pts). Rubio has six points, five assists and five boards, while Berwer has six points and K-Mart has five. A key tonight is the 11-10 Wolves advantage in fast break points--last time the teams met, Washington finished with a 33-9 edge in that category. For the Wizards, Wall has 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting. He's been impressive all night. WAS 61, MIN 47

Q2 2:58 The Wolves are showing some nice energy here in the second quarter and have extended their lead to 12. Minnesota is shooting 10-for-17 from the field this quarter, thanks in part to a nice 3-of-4 effort from J.J. Barea off the bench. He's got six, while Shved has four points (all free throws) and DC has four of his own. MIN 48, WAS 36

Q2 5:25: Minnesota just opened up its largest lead of the night at nine, and part of that reason is a firm 18-10 advantage in the paint and a 10-0 edge in second chance points. You'll have that when you have Pek and Love snatching up a combined 14 boards already tonight, including five offensive rebounds from Pek alone. Loves still has 13 points and seven rebounds, while Pek has nine points and seven boards. MIN 41, WAS 32

Q2 8:54: Nice 9-2 run to start the quarter for the Wolves, including a 6-0 run after tying the game 25-25 that puts the Wolves up 6. Back-to-back baskets by Barea were a nice boost as he scored the first four bench points of the night. MIN 31, WAS 25

End Q1: Wizards coach Randy Wittman said at shootaround that he'd concede the inevitable big game from Love if he can keep the rest of the team from going nuts on the scoreboard. So far, that's kind of becoming a reality but this is still anyone's game. Love has 13 of the Wolves' 22 points as the Wizards hold a 23-22 lead after 1. Love is 4-of-8 from the field and is 5-of-5 from the line. He also has seven boards. But K-Mart is 1-for-5 with three points, and he's the team's second leading scorer. Wall has 11 for the Wizards, while Booker, Beal and Nene each have 4. WAS 23, MIN 22

Q1 2:56: Love continues to shine here every night, and this game is no exception. He's 4-of-7 from the field with 11 points and five boards already, and we've still got about 3 minutes left in the first. Meanwhile, Kevin Martin just had a sweet cut to the hoop and got a nice feed from Love. K-Mart scored and drew the foul, so he's headed to the line trying to tie this thing up. WAS 19, MIN 18

Q1 7:52: Not the crispest start for the Wolves as they came out tonight shooting 0-for-6. They're currently 2-for-11, scoring on a nice drive by Brewer and a basket inside by Pekovic. The Wizards opened up shooting 5-of-8, including five from Wall and four from Booker. WAS 11, MIN 4


PG-John Wall, SG-Bradley Beal, SF-Trevor Ariza, PF-Trevor Booker, C-Marcin Gortat

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

PREGAME 6:50 PM: One more quick note or two about the Wizards before I head down to the court. The Wizards have put Nene and Bradley Beal on minute restrictions since both returned from recent injuries. Over the past three games, Beal has played between 28-30 minutes while Nene has played 23 minutes the last two games. I asked Wittman what to expect from Beal tonight, and he gave me the most descriptive answer I could ask for: "In terms of how many minutes? You'll have to watch the game." As for this Washington team, the Wizards are trying to really make a push in the Eastern Conference to climb the latter a bit. They're 12-13 and sixth in the conference at the moment, but they're really only a game and a stone's throw away from jumping into home seed territory. The next step in this team's development is putting together stretches of wins on the road, Wittman said. If they win tonight, the Wizards would have a perfect 4-0 road trip as they head back to The District. That would be an impressive stretch away from home.

PREGAME 6:35 PM: When you look back at the last time these two teams played each other (Nov. 19, a 104-100 Wizards comeback win), you notice a couple things. One, it was a point in each team's season where things turned around a bit. Since Nov. 19, the Wizards are 10-6 (were 2-7 at the time) and the Wolves are 6-11 (were 7-4). Now we sit at a point in the year for Minnesota when a home win would be the perfect way to kick off a stretch of games during which the Wolves will play the majority at Target Center.

Looking back at that loss in November, coach Rick Adelman said it's the perfect example of how the Wolves have discussed playing all 48 minutes of a ballgame. Taking advantage of an early lead, withstanding the opponent's run and getting out of town with a victory. Tonight, the Wolves hope they're able to play those full 48 minutes and pick up a much-needed victory in front of their home fans.

"You've got to carry it through to the second half," Adelman said. "They were able to, because that was kind of a despreration game for them. And they showed it. You know, they came out in the second half and they really put it to us. You know, you can't worry about what they're going to do. We want to worry about what we can do."

Which brings us to the second point about that loss in D.C. The Wolves at that point in the year were running teams into the ground. They were connecting on Love's outlet passes and demoralizing opponents with their quick play. But around that time in the schedule, teams started taking that away from Minnesota and the Wolves weren't able to get as many transition points as they had in the first 10-11 contests. In that particular loss to Washington, the Wizards outscored the Wolves 33-9 on the break.

That needs to change tonight, forward Corey Brewer said.

"We've got to get out in transition more," he said. "We've been playing too much half court basketball, and the ball has kind of slowed our game down. And I feel like we're a lot better team when we're in transition because Pek gets easy post-ups and K-Love gets wide open 3s and Ricky's able to play his game. We've got to be able to get stops, so we've got to stop their transition."

What better time to get that started again than during a home game that kicks off eight of 12 at Target Center, right? "That's what it's all about, man," Brewer said. "We had a tough schedule in the beginning and now the schedule is about to start going our way. For us, it's a good chance to get a home win tonight and then we get back-to-backs, but it starts again."

PREGAME 3:00 PM: Welcome to Target Center as we get set for tonight’s matchup against the Washington Wizards. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on NBATV (this game is not locally televised on Fox Sports North) and 830 WCCO-AM. Be sure to follow along all night as we’ll have pregame news/notes as well as in-game updates all night here on the GameDay Live Blog.

One note before we get into tonight’s matchup: the upcoming Jan. 8 game between the Wolves and Suns previously scheduled for 7 p.m. is now an 8:30 p.m. tipoff. That’s because the game was flexed to ESPN’s schedule, so if you have tickets for that game expect it to begin an hour and a half later.

As for tonight’s contest, the Wolves are hoping to even up this season series against the Wizards at 1-1—this being the final matchup of the year between the two. Minnesota lost 104-100 to Washington in November at a point in time when the Wizards were really struggling. They were 2-7 heading into that contest. But since that win, Washington is 10-6 and has really begun climbing in the East. As of today, they’re sixth in the conference.

Coach Randy Wittman pointed to health this morning when asked at shootaround about the team’s recent success. And if you look at how the wins and losses break down, it seems to be true. Think back to last year: Washington was 5-28 to start the year before John Wall returned from injury. With Wall back and thriving with Bradley Beal in the back court, Washington went 24-25 the rest of the way.

This year, after that 2-7 start, the Wizards are 10-6 but the breakdown during this 16-stretch is pretty stark, too. Bradley Beal missed nine of those games due to injury, and the Wizards went 4-5 during that stint. With Beal and Wall together since Nov. 19, Washington is 6-1.

Not to say that Wall and Beal are the lone reasons for the team’s success, but they both average a team-high 19.6 points per game and really seem to feed off each other in the back court.

“They’re very good together,” Wittman said. “And through one year with Brad playing with John last year obviously helps, but they’ve got a good feel between themselves. That’s a young back court that should be able to play a lot of years together.”

Add in Trevor Ariza (15.8 points per game, 42.3 percent from 3), Nene (14.8 ppg), Marcin Gortat (12.8 ppg, 9.0 rpg) and Martell Webster (12.8 ppg, 41.8 percent from 3), and the Wizards do have some pieces that can score at different moments.

That’s what helped in Washington’s comeback win against Minnesota in November—namely, the late Webster 3—and that’s what Wall said has been a key to the team’s recent success.

“You can’t really key on one guy,” Wall said. “Any night anybody can have a hot night.”

The Wolves enter tonight’s game knowing this is the time when they need to make a push. They haven’t had consecutive home games since before Thanksgiving, and they’ve traveled a ton in the first two months. But over the next four weeks, they’ll have a favorable schedule that includes eight of their next 12 games at home (and four of their next five in the short term). Minnesota is still 13-15 and just 2 ½ games back of the eighth spot. The Wizards game in November is one of five losses that really stand out as winnable games that got away this year, so a little payback here at Target Center would be a good way to kick off this stretch of home contests.

We’ll have more to come on tonight’s game as we get closer to gametime. Here are some pregame notes to check out:

  • The Wolves trail in the all-time series 18-28, but are 11-11 at home. The Wolves and Wizards have split the last eight games in the series, and the Wolves have won the last three contests at Target Center.

  • Washington won the previous meeting this season, 104-100, at Verizon Center on Nov. 19. The Wolves led 63-51 at halftime, but were outscored 53-37 in the second half. The Wizards took the lead for good on a Martell Webster three-pointer with 42 seconds to play.

  • Wolves Notes

  • Kevin Love ranks 1st in the NBA in rebounding (13.9 rpg) and 3rd in scoring (25.9 ppg). He has a league-leading 25 double-doubles this year. Love is averaging 31.3 points, 14.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game over his last eight contests.

  • Love has scored at least 30 points or pulled down 10 or more rebounds in all 27 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.

  • Love recorded 45 points, 19 rebounds and 6 assists in the Wolves' loss to the Clippers on Dec. 22. He also joins Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone and Alvan Adams as the only players since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976 to record 45+ points, 65%+ FG%, 15+ rebounds and 5+ assists in a game.

  • Love and Nikola Pekovic combined to score 79 points at the Clippers on Dec. 20, the most points scored by two players in Wolves history (prev.76 - Love/Barea at OKC 3/23/12).

  • Over his last three games, Pekovic is averaging 28.7 ppg and 12.0 rpg while shooting 56.9% from the floor. He has 13 double-doubles this season, including eight in the last 13 games.

  • Ricky Rubio ranks 2nd in the NBA in steals at 2.68 per game and 7th in assists with 8.0 apg.

  • Rubio and Corey Brewer have combined for 120 steals this season -- the top duo in the NBA (Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are 2nd with 100).

  • The Wolves rank 3rd in the NBA in steals with 9.11 spg and 4th in free throw percentage at 79.7%. The Wolves rank 3rd in the league in free throw attempts with 24.9 per game and 2nd in free throws made with 21.4 per game. They are allowing their opponents an average of just 17.8 FTAs per game -- the fewest in the league.

  • Wizards Notes

  • Washington has won its last three road contests -- the team has not won four straight road games since March 2008. With a 12-13 record, the Wizards are currently 5th in the Eastern Conference.

  • The Wizards rank 4th in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage at 39.2%, 6th in steals with 8.72 per game and 9th in assists with 23.12 per game.

  • John Wall enters the game having score 20+ points in four consecutive games for the first time in his career. He is averaging 20.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 9.4 assists in his last eight games. Wall ranks 3rd in the NBA in assists (9.1) and 4th in steals (2.24).

  • Marcin Gortat has recorded a double-double in the last two games and has posted 10 on the season.

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