Scouting Report: Wolves vs. 76ers

Wolves (15-16) vs. 76ers (20-11) - 6 PM Target Center
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North
Where to Listen: 830 AM WCCO

*Get your questions on the radio airwaves during halftime! Just tweet questions to @WolvesRadio and listen to the halftime show hosted by John Focke on WCCO 830 AM.

The Minnesota Timberwolves host the Philadelphia 76ers tonight in the teams’ lone matchup of the season. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. at Target Center. The Timberwolves are coming off back-to-back wins and have a shot to climb back to the .500 mark tonight. They eclipsed .500 at 13-12 against Sacramento on Feb. 7 before losing four straight. But the Wolves are back on track with a pair of wins over Charlotte and Houston, a pair of games in which Minnesota has scored more than 100 points and have outscored their opponents by 12.5 points per night.

The 76ers are one of the stingiest teams in the league when it comes to points against. The Sixers lead the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division primarily because they are one of the top defensive teams in the league. Philadelphia is tied with Boston for the fewest points allowed per game at 87.2, and they are third in the NBA in point differential with a plus-7.8. The Sixers are 7-5 on the road this year, while Minnesota holds an 8-10 record at Target Center.

Winning the turnover battle

One of the reasons the Sixers are winning is because of their ability to take care of the basketball. Philadelphia is leading the league with 10.4 turnovers per contest—nearly three fewer than second place San Antonio. The 76ers also lead the league in turnover differential with 4 fewer turnovers per night than their opponents, and their 2.15 assists per turnover is 0.48 better than second place Chicago.

The Wolves’ main focus through much of the 2011-12 season has been limiting their turnovers. They are currently tied for 27th in the league with 16.4 turnovers per night and have a minus-0.7 turnover differential. But during Minnesota’s two-game winning streak, those miscues have decreased. The Wolves had 13 turnovers against Charlotte and 19 against the Rockets on Friday.

Wolves forward Derrick Williams said winning the turnover battle will be important tonight.

“They have a great team,” he said. “They want to get out in transition; they want to take the ball from you and get out. We just have to get back on defense.”

Finishing strong

Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman stressed while the Wolves were on a four-game losing streak earlier this month that the team needed to begin creating separation from its opponents late in games. During Minnesota’s two-game winning streak, the squad has been able to do just that. The Wolves went on a 10-0 run to end the third quarter and ballooned their lead to 19 in the fourth against Charlotte on Wednesday, and on Friday the team went on a 12-0 run in the fourth quarter against the Rockets on Friday.

“We’ve lost some games in the end, and that’s something we need to learn,” Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic said. “When we’ve got some lead, there is no need to rush and try to score. We need to spend time, control the ball. We are trying to learn many things, and it’s all part of it.”

Pekovic continues to shine

Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic looks to keep his strong play going tonight. Over his past 10 games, he’s averaging 18.4 points and 10.7 rebounds per night, and in Friday’s win over Houston he put together a career-high 30 points while hauling in 12 rebounds. His workload has been increasing significantly over the past month. Prior to February, Pekovic had played 30 minutes in an NBA game twice in his two-year career. This month, he’s done it eight times in 10 games and is coming off back-to-back contests where he’s played 42 and 44 minutes, respectively. His most glaring attribute is his offensive rebounding—nine of his 12 boards on Friday were offensive and 85 of his 154 rebounds this year have come on the offensive end.

Pekovic will look to take advantage of the 76ers in the paint tonight. Philadelphia has been without center Spencer Hawes for 16 of the past 18 games with an Achilles injury. Nikola Vucevic has picked up time in his absence and scored a season best 16 points on Friday against Dallas on 7-of-8 shooting.

Love leading the way

Along with Pekovic, Wolves forward Kevin Love has been on a roll over his last five games. During that stretch he’s scored 30 or more four times, is averaging 29.2 points and 16.6 rebounds per contest and is shooting 52.7 percent from the floor. Not only is he doing it consistently, but he’s doing it when it counts. Love’s back-to-back 3-pointers during Friday’s fourth quarter quickly turned a one-point game into a seven-point advantage, and Minnesota went on to win 111-98. Love will likely match up with power forward Elton Brand tonight, who is averaging 10.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.

Iguodala’s presence

Andre Iguodala will make his first All-Star Game appearance this season thanks to his strong play for Philadelphia in the first half. He’s the first 76ers player to make the All-Star Game since Allen Iverson in 2006. Iguodala is averaging 12.4 points per game to go along with 6.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists a night.

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