The Timberwolves ended their four-game losing streak on Wednesday vs. Charlotte with a win. Then, they traveled to Houston to take on the Rockets and on the backs of their ferocious frontcourt, Love & Pek, they won that season series (3-1).
Now, they're back at the Target Center vs. the Philadelphia 76ers. It'll be a chance to move to .500 once again, this season. The Wolves currently sit at 15-16 and 8-10 at home. However, they'll be facing one of the better teams in the NBA. The Sixers have tallied 20 wins this season and just 11 losses and are 7-5 on the road.
It's become evident these past few games that the one of the Timberwolves' strengths has become that frontcourt combination of Love & Pekovic. I would honestly say that Pekovic should be a strong candidate for Most Improved Player of the Year. With Pekovic's emergence it's taking a lot of strain off of Kevin Love as Pekovic is beginning to draw more attention especially when he plants himself down low. We'll have a full-story on the emergence of Nikola Pekovic, either later tonight or tomorrow afternoon, sometime.
The Timberwolves should have J.J. Barea back, which is a nice boost to their reserve backcourt. He missed Friday's game vs. the Rockets, as his girlfriend was giving birth to their son; Sebastian.
Rick Adelman tightened up his rotations on Friday. Only eight players played vs. the Rockets; the starters: Rubio, Ridnour, Johnson, Love, Pekovic & reserves: Beasley, Webster, Williams. It's become clear that Adelman has and will continue to shorten up his rotations, even if that means his main guys will get tired--so long as they get the win, compressed schedule or not! For instance, in the past ten games, Anthony Randolph has played in just one, he's also been inactive for three of those. In the past 13 games, Tolliver has played sparingly in just 6. Those two guys have been the most effected.
Going forward, I'd expect those five previous starters listed as well as the three reserves--and J.J. to receive the majority (or all) of the minutes.
Now, let's talk Sixers! Philadelphia will look to get back on track after losing their past two games. Those losses came this past week against the Magic (103-87) on Wednesday and the Mavericks (82-75) on Friday. The Sixers are an averaging scoring team, currently 14th in the NBA at 94.9ppg. However, they're most effective on defense. The Sixers currently rank #1 in the NBA in points allowed: 87.2. We'll have to see how Minnesota does against the NBA's best defense.
Currently, the Sixers are without starting center, Spencer Hawes. Hawes is out with an Achilles injury and is expected to be out until after the All-Star break. In Hawes' absence Elton Brand has moved over to play center and rookie Lavoy Allen has been inserted into the starting lineup.
I was looking up statistics for Philly's leaders. Lou Williams is currently leading Philadelphia in scoring with 16.0ppg! Needless to say, I was surprised, I figured Iguodala (12..4) or Holiday (13.4). I'd keep an eye on rebouding in this one though. The Timberwolves, are obviously one of the best rebounding teams in the League (obviously, thanks in large part to Kevin Love), they're currently ranked 3rd in the NBA. The Sixers are without Hawes, their leading rebounder, so they rely heavily on guys like Brand, Allen, Iguodala & Thaddeus Young to secure boards. I've got a feeling that'll be one of the biggest advantages for Minnesota coming into this one.
This will come down to the Wolves getting stops and being able to score the ball. Ultimately that's the objective in any game, BUT they need that defense leading to offense and they need to shoot efficiently against the Sixers. If the Wolves come out and start the game shooting 30-40% from the field, they're not going to have success against Philly.
Another one of the Sixers' strengths lies in the depth. They have a nice little set of guys coming off the bench that give them a BIG boost: Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young & Evan Turner. Sometimes even rookie Nikola Vucevic gives them good production. For instance, he led the Sixers with 16pts vs. the Mavericks in their last game, also adding 7rebs, 1stl, 1blk, shot 7-of-8 from the field & played just 19 minutes! The Wolves' bench will have to match the production that the Sixers have coming off the pine. That means guys like J.J., Beasley, Webster & Williams all need to produce.
This is the only meeting of these two teams this season and I've got to admit I'm excited to see the Sixers in action. It'll be the first 76ers game I watch this season (and probably the only one).
That's all I've got for now. Thanks for reading HOWL, enjoy the game & GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!