Shootaround Access: Wolves vs. Jazz

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic was back on the court during the team’s morning shootaround, and he said he plans to play against the Utah Jazz tonight at Target Center.

Pekovic, who suffered a sprained right ankle during the first half of Monday’s game against Denver, did not return in the 103-101 overtime loss. At shootaround, Pekovic said there was no swelling in the ankle and that it feels OK.

Still, with the team not doing any running during the shootaround session, Pekovic said he’ll get evaluated again this afternoon.

“This was just a really light workout,” Pekovic said. “We were just shooting, so nothing stressful. It feels OK now, but I don’t know how it will feel.”

Pekovic had seven points and seven rebounds—six offensive—in 15 minutes on Monday. He is averaging 17.3 points and 10.3 boards during the month of February and has solidified himself as the Wolves’ mainstay at the center position.

“He brings a big, physical presence for us,” forward Kevin Love said. “He’s been a double-double all of February. He gets to the free-throw line, brings just a physical prowess to our team. That’s what we’ll miss with him, but I think he’ll be able to go tonight.”

That physicality will be needed to combat the Jazz’s style of play—a bruising philosophy that Love said the Wolves fully expect to see tonight.

“They bring a lot of stuff, Big Al (Jefferson) and all the players they have inside,” Love said. “They’re physical; you always know what to expect from them. They’re going to come out here and play hard.”

Both the Timberwolves (16-17) and the Jazz (15-16) are looking to reach the .500 mark heading into the All-Star Break. Love said it would be a big step forward for the Wolves to even their record tonight—a win would also match their victory total from all of last year.

Pek to rest over All-Star Break

With San Antonio’s Tiago Splitter sidelined over All-Star Break with a strained right calf muscle, Pekovic was thought to be a viable replacement on Charles Barkley’s team in this weekend’s Rising Stars Challenge—a game that also features Wolves rookies Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio.

That will not be the case, as the NBA announced Utah forward Derrick Favors will replace Splitter on Team Chuck’s roster.

Favors is averaging 8.1 points and 5.0 rebounds per game this season. He has scored in double figures five times in the month of February, and he scored a season-high 20 points on Dec. 30 against Philadelphia.

Pekovic said he will take the time to rest over the weekend.

“I think it’s very important for everybody (to rest),” he said. “We’ve got a couple guys that are playing a lot—30 minutes, 35. I think Kevin is playing around 40 minutes.”

Love, who will play in both the All-Star Game and the Foot Locker 3-Point Contest this weekend, said he’ll try to take as much time to stay off his feet during the break. He said getting rest will be crucial, as the Wolves begin a stretch of 13 road games out of 18 contests through the end of March.

“It’s very big for us,” Love said. “We know we’re going on the road for 17-18 days out of the month of March. We’ve played pretty well on the road, though, but we know it’s going to be draining. But to get to .500 as far as where our mindset is at, I think that would be big for us.”

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