Scouting Report: Wolves at Spurs
Wolves (23-24) vs. Spurs (29-14) - 7:30 p.m. at AT&T 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 have matched up well against the San Antonio Spurs this season, winning each of their first two meetings at Target Center. But tonight’s matchup could be their most important of their three meetings in 2011-12, as Minnesota looks to even its record on this seven-game homestand at 3-3 and climb back to the .500 mark on the year. A win against San Antonio, currently second in the Western Conference, would be big for a Wolves squad that just snapped a three-game losing streak on Monday.
Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. from AT&T Center.
The Timberwolves opened their seven-game road trip with a big win in Phoenix but came up short in their next three games in Utah, Los Angeles (Lakers) and Sacramento. They snapped the three-game losing streak against the Warriors at Oracle Arena in a 97-93 victory on Monday. After being outscored in the third quarter 32-22 and watching their 49-35 halftime lead slip away, the Wolves held on in the fourth, with Anthony Tolliver providing a late-game 10-point surge off the bench. Love dominated the night with a game-high 36 points and 17 rebounds, his league-leading 39th double-double of the season. Luke Ridnour also recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists, and guard JJ Barea chipped in an additional 10 assists.
The Spurs come off a 106-99 loss to the Mavericks on Sunday. Despite the absence of injured Dallas starters center Brendan Haywood and forward Shawn Marion, the Mavericks outrebounded the Spurs 48-35 and saw solid performances from several players, including a game-high 27 points from forward Dirk Nowitzki. Spurs forward Tim Duncan and guard Danny Green each had 17 points, and Tony Parker finished with 13 points and 11 assists.
San Antonio is 17-4 this season at home, but overall in thier past 11 games they are hovering around the .500 mark. Since rolling off an 11-game winning streak from Jan. 30-Feb. 20, the team is 6-5. Minnesota looks to even its road record at 12-12 tonight.
Last time out
The Timberwolves’ strong defense and late-game composure led them to an 87-79 win over the Spurs in their last matchup Jan. 27 at Target Center. The Wolves were down 42-41 after the first half but went on a 15-4 run to start the third quarter led by center Nikola Pekovic, who had eight of his 14 points in the first four minutes of the third. Wolves guard Ricky Rubio came through in the clutch with nine of his 18 points coming in the fourth quarter, and Derrick Williams pitched in 12 points, six of which were scored in a two-minute span in the fourth. The Wolves combined this offensive surge with great defense, holding the Spurs to 2-for-11 shooting in the final seven minutes. Love and Pekovic did their jobs down low, holding the Spurs to only two offensive rebounds, a franchise record. The Wolves outrebounded the Spurs 46-34 on the night.
Spurs guard Tony Parker finished with a game-high 20 points, while forward Richard Jefferson added 10. Duncan had 9 points and 10 boards, only one of them offensive.
Ridnour, Parker step up
Guard Luke Ridnour has stepped up both in scoring and in assists for the Wolves as of late. Averaging 11.7 points per game on the season, Ridnour has averaged 13.7 in the last 10 games. He's also contributed four double-doubles in the last six contests: against the Warriors (11 points/10 assists) March 19, the Lakers (12 points/11 assists) on March 16, the Jazz (18 points/13 assists) on March 15 and the Hornets (14 points/10 assists) on March 10.
Meanwhile, Parker continues to put up one of his best statistical seasons. His 8.0 assists per game are the best in his 11-year career, and his 20.0 points per night is second only to his 22.0 PPG in 2008-09. The Spurs have needed his production throughout the campaign, as shooting guard Manu Ginobili missed much of the first half with a broken hand and Duncan's numbers have declined this year. Duncan is averaging the fewest minutes per game of his career (28.3 MPG) and is averaging 5.7 points (14.6) and 2.5 rebounds (8.8) per game fewer than his career averages.
Stephen Jackson to Spurs
San Antonio sent small forward Richard Jefferson to Golden State in the Jackson deal. Jefferson started all 41 games he played in for the Spurs this season, averaging 9.2 points and 3.5 rebounds. Since his departure, Kawhi Leonard has started both games for the Spurs. He's averaged 10.3 points per game on 56.5 percent shooting this month, adding 5.8 boards per night.
The Timberwolves are having a tough time with injuries as of late; between losing Ricky Rubio to a torn ACL on March 9, Pekovic's and Barea's ankle sprains, and Michael Beasley's sprained toe, the Wolves' lineup has seen some shuffling.
Pekovic had been heating up prior to sitting Sunday's game in Sacramento, averaging 18.2 points per game in the last five. He returned to start Monday against the Golden State but left the game for good three minutes into the third quarter.
Beasley returned Sunday in Sacramento after missing the previous two games due to his sprained great toe on his left foot.
Love continues to impress
All-Star forward Kevin Love continues to be a scoring and rebounding machine for the Timberwolves. He's put up double-doubles in 39 of his 43 games this season and averaged 25.9 points per game, 30.3 in March and 31.1 in the last 10 games. Love's standout performance against the Warriors Monday night (36 points, 17 rebounds) marked his eighth game of the season with 30 or more points and 15 or more rebounds; the rest of the NBA combined has only recorded six such games.
In the Wolves' previous two matchups with the Spurs, Love scored 24 points and grabbed 15 boards Jan. 2 and scored 18 points with 16 rebounds on Jan. 27, helping lift the Timberwolves over the Spurs in both games at Target Center.
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