Shootaround Access: Wolves vs. Wizards | Dec. 27, 2013

by Mark Remme
Web Editor

Shootaround Access: Wolves vs. Wizards | Dec. 27, 2013


Timberwolves vs. Wizards | 7:00 PM — Target Center

Where to Watch: NBATV

Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM

If you look at the stat line from Minnesota’s matchup against Washington on Nov. 19, you’ll see a trend that’s become commonplace this year for the Wolves: Kevin Love led all scorers with 25 points and all rebounders with 11 boards. Yet the Wizards put together a late push and came away with a 104-100 victory at Verizon Center in D.C.

If you ask Wizards coach Randy Wittman what the key to success against the Wolves is, he’ll tell you it’s not necessarily stopping Love. The two-time All-Star will be a major factor on both ends of the court. The key is containing the remaining Wolves crew outside of Love, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin so that no one else has a monster offensive effort.

“That’s got to be the main focus of ours,” Wittman said. “You’re not going to come out and keep Kevin Love scoreless.”

As Minnesota and Washington prepare for tonight’s second and final meeting of the year—tipoff set for 7 p.m. at Target Center on NBATV and 830 WCCO-AM—the Wolves will look to get a little payback for that November loss and try to turn that into the type of success the Wizards have enjoyed over the last five weeks.

Heading into these teams’ last head-to-head meeting, the Wizards were 2-7 and looking for a way to turn things around. Since that Nov. 19 win against the Wolves, they are 10-6 and are right in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Right now, Washington is sixth in the East—just 1.5 games back of the Hawks for the No. 3 seed.

The key? For Wittman, it’s health and a re-commitment to defense.

Standout point guard John Wall agreed.

“We weren’t committed [to D] the first nine games,” Wall said. “We’re just doing a better job on everything.”

Tonight, they’ll face a Wolves team that ranks fourth in the NBA with 105.4 points per game overall and 107.2 points per game at home (where they are 8-4 this season). That commitment to defense is something the Wizards understand they need tonight. The key is making things difficult on Love, keeping others from exploding for big offensive nights and trying to force turnovers in order to get out in transition. Washington is fourth in the league with 16.9 fastbreak points per game this season.

“You’ve got a superstar on the other end,” Wall said of Love. “You’ve just got to make it tough for him, you know what I mean? Show him different coverages and don’t let him get nothing easy and get into a rhythm where he finds out he can make any shot. We know it’s going to be tough, but Kevin Love will still get his numbers because he’s such a good player. You’ve got to try to make it tough, frustrating and tough.”

Last time around, the Wizards out-ran the Wolves to the tune of a 33-9 fast-break points advantage. If the Wizards showcase that defensive commitment tonight and let Wall, Bradley Beal and others get out in space, it will go a long way toward stealing a win here at Target Center.

The Wolves understand how important it is to pick up victories here at home.

“We definitely needed it,” Love said at Thursday’s practice. “Just need to get back to our winning ways, especially with our first real homestand here. … We need to win at home. This is where we need to make our push.”

For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.