Pekovic Keeping Consistent Play Going
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Pekovic Continues Stretch Of Efficient Play
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Nikola Pekovic wasted little time making an impact during Monday’s game against the Celtic. The Wolves center, returning after missing Saturday’s game with a sprained left ankle, essentially took control from the start as he recorded 15 points and forced four combined fouls on Boston big men Chris Wilcox and Shavlik Randolph in the first quarter alone.
That’s the type of impact Pekovic can make on a team. He finished with 29 points on the night, the second highest point total of his career trailing a 31-point effort on Dec. 14 against New Orleans. Coach Rick Adelman said after Tuesday’s practice the coaching staff new the Wolves could have an advantage down low—Minnesota’s starting front court combined for 57 points—and Pekovic led the way.
“Pek did such a great job of getting them into foul trouble, put them in that kind of position that we were going to dominate in the paint,” Andrei Kirilenko said. “I think it went along for the whole game where we dominated in the paint. He did a great job to get all of their big guys in [foul] trouble.”
Minnesota hopes that trend will continue tonight, when the Wolves travel to Milwaukee and get a whole new challenge with Bucks center Larry Sanders. Sanders, a 6-foot-22, 235-pounder, has already put together a strong performance against Minnesota this season as he collected a triple-double (10 points, 10 blocks and 12 assists) in a 95-85 loss to the Wolves on Nov. 30. Pekovic finished with 14 points and 16 boards in that meeting.
Sanders has come into his own this season, putting up career highs in points, field-goal percentage, rebounds and blocks.
But Pekovic is in a similar position. His 16.1 points and 8.8 rebounds are career-bests, and he’s continued to improve those numbers over the course of the season. In his last nine games since returning from an abdominal injury, Pekovic has averaged 17.1 points and 8.9 rebounds, and he’s shooting 57 percent from the field.
Pekovic has developed into such a strong player over the last two seasons—both in the physical sense and as well as through his consistency. When he’s healthy, he’s been a force that continuously impacts the game with his keen sense for offensive rebounding, his forceful moves to the basket and his presence on the pick and roll.
And he’s become much more efficient at drawing fouls, not committing them.
When Pekovic was a rookie, he averaged 2.8 fouls per game in just 13.6 minutes a night. He currently is averaging 2.4 fouls in more than 31 minutes per game in 2012-13, something he had to adjust as he transitioned to the NBA game. He has so much power, he had to learn how he could use it to his advantage without sending opponents to the line and himself to the bench.
Now, he’s figured out the right mix.
He went to the line 11 times on Monday against Boston, making all 11. We’ve seen elite centers in this league unable to make their shots from the charity stripe—including Dwight Howard’s 2-of-8 performance in the final three minutes of last week’s game at Target Center—but Pekovic has maintained an ability to connect from the line. That makes it more difficult to handle him, knowing you can’t send him to the line and expect him to miss.
Put that together with his ability to roll to the basket, and he’s a handful for opposing teams.
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