Scouting Report: Wolves at Magic
Email / Twitter
Wolves (12-9) at Magic (10-13) — 6 PM Amway Center
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM
The Timberwolves are three games above .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2006-07, and they’re looking to add another game to their wins column tonight in Orlando. Tipoff against the Magic is set for 6 p.m. at Amway Center on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM.
The Wolves are winners of six of their last seven games, the latest coming in a 114-106 overtime win against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday in Ricky Rubio’s season debut. Rubio made good on his long-awaited return to the court, putting up eight points, nine assists and three steals in 18 minutes of work. But Saturday’s win was a team effort; six players scored 14 or more points in the win, led by Nikola Pekovic’s 21, Alexey Shved’s 18 and Derrick Williams’ 16. It was Minnesota’s fourth win in their last five games against Dallas; the Mavs won 18 of the previous 19 before that stretch.
The Magic enter tonight winners of two straight and three of four. In their past two games they’ve knocked off Golden State, a surprise team in the West this year, as well as Charlotte 107-98 in their most recent matchup. In Charlotte, Glen Davis and Arron Afflalo led the way with 20 points each, while Jameer Nelson added 16 points and Josh McRoberts scored 14 off the bench.
The Magic scored 60 points in the paint against the Bobcats, and whichever team is able to penetrate the lane and get those shots at the rim to fall will have the advantage tonight. The Wolves have scored 120 points in the paint over their last two games and are averaging more than 50 points in the paint over their last five contests.
Orlando is 5-6 at home this year while Minnesota is 5-6 on the road. The Wolves are averaging 95.8 points per game this year, but their offense has become much more explosive in the past two weeks. The Wolves have scored 100 or more points in four of their last six games after going 12 consecutive contests without hitting the century mark.
Last time out
The Wolves jumped out to an early lead and never looked back on Nov. 7 at Target Center, using a strong defensive effort to pull away in a 90-75 victory. It was Greg Stiemsma’s best offensive performance as a member of the Timberwolves; he finished the night 6-of-7 with 12 points off the bench and burned the Magic with his midrange jumpers. Luke Ridnour had 19 points, while Derrick Williams had 14, Nikola Pekovic had 11 and Chase Budinger had 10. The most significant play that came out of this Nov. 7 win was JJ Barea diving into the scorer’s table late in the fourth with the game already in hand, suffering a left mid-foot sprain which kept him out five games. JJ Redick led the Magic with 16 points, and Arron Afflalo had 12.
Shved continues to shine
The Wolves inserted Alexey Shved into the starting lineup over the past two games, and he hasn’t missed a beat. He’s averaging 15.5 points per game, is shooting 6-of-9 from 3-point range and has 14 assists in that two-game span. Shved is quickly becoming a fan favorite because of his court vision and his ability to connect from outside, and if the Wolves hope to improve on their 3-point shooting—they’re still last in the NBA in that category—Shved will likely be the catalyst for that change. Coach Rick Adelman praises Shved’s ability to hit from distance consistently in practice, and he’s starting to show that consistency in games.
Key matchup: Luke Ridnour and Jameer Nelson
Luke Ridnour has been a big key to the team’s back court success over the past three weeks. He’s averaging 13.0 points per game and is shooting 50.8 percent in December, has scored in double figures in nine consecutive games and is averaging 5.3 assists during the team’s 7-2 stretch. He was the team’s leading scorer against the Magic in November, shooting 6-of-9 and hitting 3-of-4 3-point attempts. That’s going to be key tonight, as the Magic have sharpshooters like JJ Redick who can get hot from the perimeter on any given night.
Jameer Nelson missed six of his team’s first seven games this year, including the Nov. 7 matchup with the Wolves, but since he’s returned the 2009 All-Star has made an impact. He’s averaging 12.9 points and 6.3 assists this season, and in the wins column Orlando certainly feels his effect. The Magic are 9-8 this season with Nelson in the lineup and are 1-5 without him. His 6.3 assists and 4.2 rebounds per night are both career highs. Nelson can facilitate or create on his own, and he’ll be a key part of Orlando’s back court tonight.
The Timberwolves got a huge boost from Rubio on Saturday night, returning to the lineup and contributing immediately as if he hadn’t missed nine months after knee surgery. He’s available on this two-game road trip, but Wolves coach Rick Adelman has said he isn’t sure Rubio will play in back-to-backs to make sure they are easing him back into the lineup. That means he might or might not play in Orlando or Miami over the next two days. Meanwhile, guard/forward Josh Howard is listed as doubtful tonight with a hyper-extended right knee and Kevin Love is probable after missing Saturday’s game with flu-like symptoms.
For Orlando, forward Al Harrington has missed the entire season recovering from meniscus surgery in his right knee. Forward Hedu Turkoglu suffered a broken left hand in the Magic’s season-opener against Denver and has been sidelined since. Neither will be available tonight against the Wolves.
|Tonight's Probable Starters|
|PG||Luke Ridnour||Jameer Nelson|
|SG||Alexey Shved||Arron Afflalo|
|SF||Andrei Kirilenko||Moe Harkless|
|PF||Kevin Love*||Glen Davis|
|C||Nikola Pekovic||Nikola Vucevic|
*-Missed last game, probable for tonight