Scouting Report: Wolves at Suns
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Wolves (20-33) at Suns (18-39) — 8:00 PM US Airways Center
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North Plus (See Channel Guide)
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM
View Timberwolves Game Notes
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The Wolves kick off a three-game West Coast road trip with a contest in Phoenix tonight. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. on Fox Sports North Plus and 830 WCCO-AM.
Phoenix is third in the NBA in field goal attempts and 18th in field goal percentage, which doesn’t make for a very consistent scoring attack. Goran Dragic has been the main man for the Suns this year, averaging career highs in minutes (32.7), points (14.2) and assists (6.8) per game. Marcin Gortat is a big body in the middle, averaging 11.4 PPG and 8.6 RPG at the center position.
Luis Scola was a nice acquisition for Phoenix this summer, as he is averaging 12.9 PPG and 6.3 RPG this year. Dynamic bench players Michael Beasley (10.3 PPG) and Shannon Brown (11.2 PPG) provide sparks off the bench. The Suns have lost seven of their last eight contests.
Last Time Out: Dec. 29, 2012
The trio of Nikola Pekovic, Andrei Kirilenko and Kevin Love rallied together for an incredible effort—combining for 71 total points and 32 rebounds—in a 111-107 win over the Phoenix Suns on Dec. 29.
Kirilenko started the game off with a bang, scoring five straight baskets without a miss to total 10 points. Kirilenko, Love and Pekovic combined to score all 32 of the Wolves’ points in the first quarter.
“Yeah all three of those guys,” coach Rick Adelman said of his big men. “We thought we had an advantage underneath. It was one of those things; it ended up being a good win for us.”
The Suns—pardon the pun—came out hot in the second half, going on a 14-6 run to eventually lead by two at one point. But the Wolves held out and executed defensively, namely in the final seconds.
A 17-footer from Luis Scola gave the Suns a 106-105 lead with 1:37 left in the contest. But a basket from Pekovic gave the Wolves a one-point advantage, followed by Alexey Shved drawing a shooting foul and hitting both charity shots.
From there, Scola and Shved traded free throws, leaving the game at 110-107 with eight seconds left. Dante Cunningham stole the inbounds pass and converted a free throw to lock the final score.
This was the first game all season where three Minnesota players scored over 20 points, with Kirilenko (20), Love (23) and Pekovic (28) all enjoying good nights shooting. Love and Pekovic added 18 and 11 rebounds, respectively, to record their double-doubles. J.J. Barea and Derrick Williams each pitched in 10 points as well.
Key Matchup: Goran Dragic and Ricky Rubio
For a Phoenix team that has been sporadic at best lately, Dragic has provided some level of reliability. He has scored over 10 points in 11 of the last 13 contests and is doing his best to facilitate with a career-high 6.8 assists per game. Although Phoenix has struggled this year, they do have a nice combo in Dragic and forward Luis Scola. Much like Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, these two make a natural pair to build around.
Rubio has had a great string of games lately, tallying two straight 10x5x5x5 games and becoming just the third player in Wolves history to do so. He carved another spot out in team history by logging 23 steals over the last five games, second ever behind Tyrone Corbin in 1990. In Rubio’s last five games, he has averaged 14.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 9.2 APG and 4.6 SPG. The Wolves need continued progress from the highly talented guard as they continue to try and find themselves as a team, especially on this road trip out west.
Injury report presented by TSR Injury Law
In a season heavily influenced by injuries, the Wolves are currently about as healthy as they’ve been since the first week of the season. Minnesota is still missing Kevin Love, Chase Budinger, Brandon Roy and Malcolm Lee, but the rest of their lineup is available tonight against Phoenix and yesterday they got news that Budinger’s knee has graduated to the degree of running and agility drills. He will be re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks. For Phoenix, Channing Frye is out for the year as doctors found he had an enlarged heart during a routine exam earlier this season.
|Tonight's Probable Starters|
|PG||Ricky Rubio||Goran Dragic|
|SG||Luke Ridnour||Jared Dudley|
|SF||Andrei Kirilenko||P.J. Tucker|
|PF||Derrick Williams||Luis Scola|
|C||Nikola Pekovic||Marcin Gortat|