Scouting Report: Wolves vs. Mavericks

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Wolves (11-9) vs. Mavericks (11-12) — 7 PM Target Center
Where to Watch: My29
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM

BREAKING NEWS: Ricky Rubio cleared and is expected to play tonight against Mavericks.

For the first time since Nov. 14, the Timberwolves are two games above .500 heading into tonight’s game against Dallas. The last time they climbed to three games above that mark was Nov. 12 on the road against this same Mavericks squad.

When these team square off tonight at Target Center, Dallas will look to avoid that same scenario. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on My29 and 830 WCCO-AM.

The Wolves are winners of three straight games and five of six thanks to a wide variety of production. Their starters accounted for 94 of their points in a 113-102 win at New Orleans on Friday night, including a career-high 31 points from center Nikola Pekovic. Andrei Kirilenko added 21 points and 11 rebounds at the small forward spot, and Luke Ridnour put up a double-double of his own with 15 points and 10 assists. Kevin Love finished with 14 points, Alexey Shved had 13 points in his first career start and JJ Barea had 12 off the bench.

The Mavericks had won three straight before an overtime loss at Boston and a 95-74 loss in Toronto on Friday. The Raptors had lost 12 of 13 heading into the night, but they owned the glass and held Dallas to under 40 percent shooting in the win. Chris Kaman led the Mavs with 15 points, while Brandon Wright also had 13 points in the front court off the bench. Shawn Marion had 12 points and 13 rebounds, and O.J. Mayo pitched in 10 of his won.

Just like Wednesday’s game against Denver, this matchup pits two teams in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race against one another. It’s only December, but Minnesota is in the sixth spot in the playoff chase. Dallas is 10th in the West and sits just 1.5 games back of the Wolves. Nights like tonight will define eventual playoff teams—being able to take care of business at home against teams vying for those limited postseason spots is essential.

Defensively, the Timberwolves hold the edge. Minnesota is second in the West this year as they’ve given up 93.1 points per game. Dallas is third to last in the West at 101.0 opponents’ points per game.

Last time out: Nov. 12, 2012

The last time these two teams met last month, the Wolves were in a similar situation with a growing injury list. Against the Mavericks, the Wolves lost their fourth player in four games as Nikola Pekovic left in the second half. Still, the Wolves persevered and essentially led wire to wire in a 90-82 victory at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Wolves held the Mavs to what was a season-low 36 percent shooting from the field, setting the tone early by allowing just 17 points in the first quarter. Pekovic led the Wolves with 20 points before leaving the game, and in total five Minnesota players scored in double figures: Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved each had 16, Luke Ridnour had 15 and Dante Cunningham had 14. For the Mavs, their back court was the key. Darren Collison finished with 21 points, and O.J. Mayo added 18 of his own.

The 3-point game

Dallas had an incredible streak of 3-point fortune end last night in Toronto. The Mavericks went 0-for-13 from distance last night, ending a streak of 1,108 consecutive games with a 3-pointer dating back to February 1999. That was the longest active streak in the NBA. The Mavs have been a pretty solid 3-point shooting team this year; they’re tied for seventh in the league at 37.3 percent efficiency as a team. Ironically, last night was a strong 3-point shooting night for Minnesota—statistically the worst 3-point shooting team in the league. Minnesota has connected on 30.0 percent of its shots from behind the arc this year, but they hit seven last night—all coming from Luke Ridnour (3-of-3) and Alexey Shved (3-of-4).

Key Matchup: Darren Collison and JJ Barea

Back court production off the bench could play a big role in tonight’s game, and both the Mavs and Wolves have enjoyed a healthy dose of energy off the pine from their point guards in recent weeks. JJ Barea has scored in double-digits in six consecutive games, including a season-high 17 points on Wednesday against Denver, and he’s shooting 51 percent and averaging 5.8 assists in December. Mavs fans know all too well what Barea brings off the bench, as he was a key contributor in Dallas’ 2011 NBA championship.

Darren Collison hasn’t started for the Mavs since Dallas signed veteran point guard Derek Fisher on Nov. 29, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He’s been adding his own scoring punch off the bench in the last nine games. Prior to an off night on Friday in Toronto, Collison had scored in double figures in four straight games, including a stretch against Sacramento and Boston this week where he shot a combined 15-of-20 from the field and scored 15 and 20 points, respectively. Not a bad option to change pace. Look for each player to take charge and control tempo when they take the floor tonight.

Injury update

The Wolves continue to have an evolving injury report. Last night in New Orleans Josh Howard (doubtful tonight) left the game with a hyper-extended right knee and Kevin Love (questionable tonight) left the game late in the fourth quarter with a right thumb contusion. X-rays were negative, and he is day to day. Those injuries happened after Malcolm Lee was listed out indefinitely earlier in the day. Lee suffered a chrondal injury in his right knee against the Nuggets on Wednesday. Guard Ricky Rubio, however, will return tonight after spending the past eight months recovering from a torn ACL and LCL in his left knee. 

Dirk Nowitzki has not played yet for the Mavericks this season after undergoing knee surgery in October. It could be a few more weeks before his return. Rookie Jae Crowder missed two straight games due to an illness, and he is listed as day to day tonight.


Tonight's Probable Starters
Position Timberwolves Mavericks
PG Luke Ridnour Derek Fisher
SG Alexey Shved O.J. Mayo
SF Andrei Kirilenko Dahntay Jones
PF Kevin Love Shawn Marion
C Nikola Pekovic Chris Kaman


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