Scouting Report: Wolves vs. Hawks
Wolves Editorial Associate
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Wolves (15-15) vs Hawks (20-12) at 7:00 PM, Target Center
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM
View Timberwolves Game Notes
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The Wolves, playing without injured star Kevin Love, nearly completed a historic comeback on Saturday night against divisional rival Portland.
During a stretch in the second half, the Wolves’ deficit hovered around 20 points, topping out at 22. But Minnesota showed fight—trimming the gap to as little as two points late in the fourth quarter—before falling 102-97. Derrick Williams scored 18 fourth quarter points, and Nikola Pekovic recorded 21 points to go with 15 boards.
Now, Minnesota must defend its home court before embarking on a four-game road trip. Sitting at .500, the Wolves are hoping to build their win count before Love returns. They gain reinforcements tonight with the return of point guard Ricky Rubio, but they’ll need all the help they can get facing a good Eastern team like Atlanta.
Tipoff from Target Center is set for 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM.
Seven of Atlanta’s last eight games have featured the same starting lineup, with Zaza Pachulia replacing Josh Smith for a single contest against Indiana. Smith leads the team in scoring with 16.8 points per game while adding 8.2 rebounds; fellow big man Al Horford contributes a strong stat line as well, nearly averaging a double-double with 15.8 PPG and 9.7 RPG.
The starting shooting guard spot has been in flux, with DeShawn Stevenson, Anthony Morrow and Kyle Korver seeing time in that role. But Lou Williams has started the last eight games and has been productive, averaging 15.3 PPG. Jeff Teague has held down the point guard position this season, leading the team in assists per game with 6.7; Deep shooting threat Korver rounds out today’s starters with 10.6 PPG and a 43 percent rate from outside.
The Hawks are not without weakness, as they have lost three of their last four games; key contributor Devin Harris is also sidelined with a sore foot. The Wolves will have to get a quick start on Atlanta, but more importantly give a consistently solid effort throughout the second quarter to gain a win before their road trip.
Last Time Out: January 14, 2012
Kevin Love tallied 30 points and 13 rebounds, but Atlanta focused in on him in the second half and recovered from a 18-point deficit to come back and win, 93-91.
"We started focusing in on him and doubling him a lot more and trying to make it tough for him, but he's a load down there, man," Johnson said. "He did a great job of keeping them in the ballgame. He's a hell of a player."
Ricky Rubio had 18 points and 12 assists for Minnesota, but when Atlanta implemented a zone defense, the passing lanes closed up and the Hawks went on a 23-2 run.
"It's our fault," Rubio said. "We just stopped running when they did that zone. We stopped scoring. When you are 18 up, you have to control the game. We have to learn about that. We didn't know how to offense that zone."
Key Matchup: Josh Smith and Derrick Williams
Josh Smith is having a good season, leading his team in scoring [16.8 PPG] and placing second in rebounding [8.2 RPG]. He’s a fairly consistent player, scoring more than 15 PPG in each of the last seven seasons. He’s also physically dominant, standing 6-foot-9 and capable of playing either small forward or power forward.
Standing across the court from him will be Derrick Williams, Minnesota’s second-year forward who could learn a thing or two from Smith about consistency. While Williams exploded for 18 fourth-quarter points against Denver on Saturday, he scored 10 or more points just one time in the previous seven contests. Both David Kahn and Rick Adelman acknowledged that Williams would have a chance at proving himself while Kevin Love is sidelined; now, all eyes will be on Williams to live up to his immense potential.
Wolves President of Basketball Operations David Kahn said after Monday’s practice that center Nikola Pekovic (left hip strain) will be available on Tuesday against the Hawks, as will point guard Ricky Rubio. He’s missed the last four games with back spasms. It’s not all good news, though, as Kahn announced guard Malcolm Lee is done for the year with a right knee injury. He’s missed the last 11 games, and an official status update should be available in the next day or two.
For the Hawks, both point guard Devin Harris (foot) and shooting guard Anthony Morrow (hip) are questionable for tonight’s game against the Wolves. Morrow, playing for the Nets last season, scored 42 points and hit eight 3-pointers against the Wolves in New Jersey last February.
|Tonight's Probable Starters|
|PG||Luke Ridnour||Jeff Teague|
|SG||Alexey Shved||Lou Williams|
|SF||Andrei Kirilenko||Kyle Korver|
|PF||Dante Cunningham||Josh Smith|
|C||Nikola Pekovic||Al Horford|