Scouting Report: Wolves vs. Mavericks
Wolves (13-13) vs. Mavericks (15-11) - 7 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 Timberwolves get a shot at their third straight victory this season over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday at Target Center, and in the process they’ll welcome their All-Star forward back to the court.
Kevin Love, who was selected to his second straight All-Star Game on Thursday, rejoins the team for tonight’s 7 p.m. tipoff after serving a two-game suspension. He’ll look to help Minnesota continue their strong play against the defending World Champions who, from 2006 through 2011, won 18 of 19 games against the Timberwolves. A win tonight would give Minnesota a season sweep of Dallas for the first time since 1995-96.
Minnesota won its first game of the season by beating the Mavericks 99-82 on New Years Day, then followed it up with a 105-90 victory in Dallas on the night the Mavericks received their 2011 NBA championship rings. Both victories came with the Timberwolves coming off losses, and tonight Minnesota enters having lost 85-80 to Memphis on Wednesday.
Still, the Wolves have been playing some of their best basketball of the season over the past three weeks. Minnesota is 6-3 in their past nine games and is 9-5 in their past 14 contests. The Mavericks enter tonight’s game having won its last game, a 105-95 victory over Denver on Wednesday, which snapped a three-game losing streak. This is the third and final game of the Mavericks’ road trip; the Mavs are 6-6 away from American Airlines Center this year.
Key Matchup: Love vs. Nowitzki
After earning his All-Star bid through an injury replacement a year ago, there was no doubt this season Love would be making the trip to Orlando. Love is first in the NBA in minutes per game (39.4 MPG) and double-doubles (22), second in rebounding (13.7 RPG) and fourth in scoring (25.0 PPG). This year, he’s done some of his best work against the Mavericks. Love had 25 points and 17 rebounds in the Wolves’ Jan. 1 victory, and followed it up with 31 points and 11 boards on Jan. 25 in Dallas—the day he signed his four-year extension with the Wolves.
Wolves Minute Hosted By John Focke
That second matchup came against a Mavs squad missing Dirk Nowitzki, who missed time with a sore right knee. Nowitzki earned his 11th consecutive All-Star appearance on Thursday despite having his lowest scoring average since 1999-2000 at 17.6 points per night. During that stretch he’s never averaged fewer than 21.8 PPG in a season. Still, Nowitzki is a threat any time he’s on the court. He shot 9-of-20 from the field in his lone meeting with Minnesota, finishing with 21 points and helping Dallas go on a second-half run before the Mavs ultimately lost by 17.
The Timberwolves took Thursday off after back-to-back games, a stretch in which they went 1-1 without Love in the lineup. Wednesday’s loss to Memphis was particularly tough for rookie guard Ricky Rubio, who finished shooting 1-of-6 from the field with four points and one assist. Rubio came into Wednesday averaging 11.7 assists in his past three games, and he’s still fourth in the league with 8.8 assists per contest and third with 228 total assists. Rubio also has the most steals in the league with 63 and is third in the NBA with 2.42 steals per game.
What to watch for
Guard JJ Barea had a stellar game against the Grizzlies, scoring 17 points on 4-of-9 shooting and connecting on 3-of-6 from 3-point range. Barea played 23 minutes in the contest, the second most minutes he’s played in a game since missing 15 of 18 games from Jan. 2 through Jan. 30 with hamstring and ankle injuries. He’s played once this season against the Mavs—his former team—returning for one game and scoring eight points before missing the next four contests with that hamstring setback. Barea was in street clothes on Jan. 25 when he and the rest of the 2010-11 Mavericks accepted their championship rings. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle praised Barea for his ability to perform at a high level in big games the last time Dallas was in town, and with Barea playing against his former teammates, this is a big game.
The Wolves will wear their Minnesota Muskies uniforms twice this weekend, beginning tonight against the Mavericks and also on Saturday against the Knicks. The Muskies, who played in the American Basketball Association in 1967-68, are being honored during six Wolves home games this season. The Wolves faced Indiana in their Muskies attire on Feb. 1, and Minnesota will also wear the jerseys against the Lakers, Clippers and Celtics in March.
Wolves center Darko Milicic missed the past two games with a sprained right ankle suffered at Monday’s practice, and he is listed as questionable for tonight’s matchup. Milicic has missed six of the last eight games due to illness and injury. He is officially listed as questionable for tonight. In his absence, Nikola Pekovic has stepped into the starting role and has put together a string of strong play. Pekovic is averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds a night over his last 10 contests.
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For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.