Scouting Report: Wolves at Mavericks

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Wolves (16-18) at Mavericks (15-23) — 7:30 PM American Airlines Center
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM

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Guard Luke Ridnour re-emphasized the importance of the juncture the season the Timberwolves find themselves in heading into Monday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks. Currently on a three-game losing streak and two games under .500, Minnesota is in a critical stretch between now and the All-Star Break that could define their season come April.

After three tough road losses to begin this road trip, the Wolves hope to pick up a victory tonight against the Mavericks at American Airlines Center before heading back to the Twin Cities. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM.

The Timberwolves have put together strong first halves on this trip, but the fourth quarters have been the problem. Over their past four games, Minnesota is allowing 31.0 points per game and 58 percent shooting to their opponents in the game’s final frame.

That was the case again Sunday night in San Antonio, where the Spurs turned a seven-point game into a 106-88 victory for their 12th straight home win. Minnesota got a steady dose of offensive rebounding and played strong half-court defense for much of the night, but sharp shooting and 3-point efficiency took over in the fourth quarter and helped propel San Antonio to the win.

The Wolves got 15 points from J.J. Barea off the bench in his return after missing two games with back spasms, while Nikola Pekovic had 14 points, Luke Ridnour had 13 points and Dante Cunningham added 11.

The Wolves enter tonight’s game with a 6-13 road record and sitting 2 ½ games behind Portland for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. A victory against the Mavericks tonight would go a long way in helping Minnesota as they return home to face the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday at Target Center.

Dallas Breakdown

The Mavericks aren’t used to being in this position. A playoff team for the past 12 years, Dallas has had a collection of ups and downs this season that includes losing 10 of 11 up through Jan. 9 against the Clippers. But they’ve won two straight since, including a 104-83 home victory against the talented Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night.

In that game against Memphis, Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki led the way for the Mavs with 20 and 17 points, respectively. The two combined to shoot 14-of-21 from the field and connected on 5-of-6 3-pointers on the night. In fact, Dallas as a team hit 11-of-17 shots from behind the arc while also holding a 21-10 advantage in fast-break points. Against the Wolves, both could be a factor. Minnesota is currently 27th in the league in fast break points allowed, and at 29.6 percent as a team the Wolves are 30th in 3-point percentage. If an opponent starts hitting 3s, it’s sometimes hard for the Wolves to keep answer.

The Mavericks have played their best basketball at home, and they’ll look to build on that tonight. Dallas is 9-7 at American Airlines Center this season.

Last time out: Dec. 15, 2013

The last time these two teams played was a memorable one for Timberwolves fans. Not only did Wolves guard Ricky Rubio make his much-anticipated regular season debut against the Mavs on Dec. 15, his first game action since suffering a season-ending knee injury the season before, but Minnesota also picked up a 114-106 overtime victory at Target Center. Rubio played just 18 minutes but finished with eight points, nine assists and three steals. Meanwhile, six players scored in double-figures in the game led by Nikola Pekovic’s 21 points, 18 more from Alexey Shved and 16 from Derrick Williams. Minnesota scored the first 10 points of overtime to ensure the win. O.J. Mayo and Derek Fisher each had 20 points for the Mavs, while Elton Brand chipped in 15 points off the bench.

Wolves Minute: Monday, Jan. 14

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Key Matchup

One reason why the Mavericks have had some inconsistency this season is because they’ve been without their star for much of the year. Dirk Nowitzki will play in just his 12th game of the season on Monday night after missing much of the first two months recovering from knee surgery. Nowitzki didn’t make an immediate splash when he returned in December, but since the beginning of January he’s starting to show signs of his old self on the offensive end. In seven January games he’s averaging 17.0 points per game, connecting on 48 percent of his 3-point shots and is chipping in 5.7 boards and 2.7 assists. No question, the Mavericks fortunes still run through the 11-time All-Star and 2011 NBA Finals MVP.

Tonight he and the Mavericks organization will face J.J. Barea for the first time in Texas since Barea left for Minnesota before the 2011-12 season. Barea missed last year’s lone matchup with the Mavs in Dallas due to injury. He was a key contributor off the bench during the Mavericks’ 2011 championship run, and he’s continued to bring that energy and fearlessness off the bench in Minnesota. Barea led the Wolves with 15 points and six assists off the bench in San Antonio on Sunday, and he’s been able to provide the late-game offensive spark Minnesota needs to close a game out on the road tonight. A win would go a long way for Minnesota right now, and if they’re able to do so in Dallas, Barea will likely have a hand in it late.

Injury report

The Wolves got Barea back on Sunday night after missing two games with back spasms. The Mavericks have no injuries to report heading into tonight’s game.

 

Tonight's Probable Starters
Position Timberwolves Mavericks
PG Luke Ridnour Darren Collison
SG Alexey Shved O.J. Mayo
SF Andrei Kirilenko Shawn Marion
PF Dante Cunningham Dirk Nowitzki
C Nikola Pekovic Chris Kaman

 


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