Shootaround Access: Wolves vs. Mavericks

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Dallas coach Rick Carlisle has no illusions about the transformation taking place in Minnesota. He’s already seen it first hand.

“Not only is there hope, there’s a good basketball team here that is challenging for the playoffs—you don’t have to convince us, because we’ve lost to them two in a row,” Carlisle said.

The change in atmosphere around the Wolves this season is as blatant on the court as it is in the numbers. Minnesota lost 18 of its previous 19 games against the Mavericks heading into the season, but the Timberwolves beat them at home on Jan. 1 and on the road Jan. 25, opening up an opportunity for their first season-sweep of Dallas since 1995-96.

What’s been the biggest key to their success against the Mavs this year? For one, forward Kevin Love said the Wolves have been able to close down the stretch.

“Defensively down the stretch, it’s us getting stops,” Love said. “Obviously we’re putting together some runs and got to the free-throw line, but I think it’s the fourth quarter. The last 5-6 minutes of the game. Getting stops against a good team, a team that was able to execute and obviously win the NBA title last year, the World Championship. If we continue to do that, keep taking the right steps in the right direction, we’re going to be better off against a team like Dallas.”

Minnesota pulled way in their first matchup with Dallas, holding the Mavs to 13 points in the fourth and turning a 74-69 third quarter lead into a 17-point rout. They did the same in Dallas, holding the Mavericks to 18 points in the final frame.

In two games this year, the Wolves have outscored Dallas 52-31 in the fourth.

Wolves guard JJ Barea said the key to tonight is energy. Barea, who won the championship with Dallas a year ago, said being more aggressive than the Mavericks has been the difference in both wins this year.

Barea did not play in the teams’ meeting in Dallas, but he did receive his championship ring in a pre-game ceremony at American Airlines Center. He said it would be a special feat to beat his former team all three times this winter.

“It would be awesome to get a win over them,” Barea said. “I think we have a good chance here at home. We need to come out with a lot of energy tonight.”

Carlisle said it comes down to making plays.

“They’ve hit big shots, they’ve made plays,” Carlisle said. “They’ve penetrated us, and they’ve given us problems on the boards. They’ve done what they do. So tonight, we’ve got a lot of challenges we’ve got to take head on. This is a way different team than we’ve seen the last few years here.”

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