Scouting Report: Wolves at Heat
Wolves Editorial Associate
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Wolves (12-10) at Heat (15-6) — 6:30 PM American Airlines Arena
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North, NBA TV
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM
View Timberwolves Game Notes
Got questions during tonight’s game? Send them to Wolves Radio via Twitter using the hash tag #WolvesRadio!
The Wolves wrap up the back end of their Florida trip as they square off against the Miami Heat on December 18 at 6:30 P.M. The game can be seen on Fox Sports North and NBA TV—fans selected it as their choice for NBA Fan Night—and the radio call can be heard on 830 WCCO-AM.
Minnesota fell flat against Orlando in the tale of two halves on Monday; after exploding for 61 points in the first half, they managed just 32 in the second. That gave Orlando enough opportunity to rebound from a deficit as large as 15 points and assume a nine-point win. The Wolves’ top three scorers—Love, Pekovic and Kirilenko—contributed only 12 total points in the second half. Forward Glen Davis led the Magic with 28 points, and reserve guard J.J. Redick emerged off the bench to pitch in 18.
Miami’s last contest was a 30-point blowout against the Washington Wizards, a club that exposed the Heat less than a month earlier with an upset win. Although the defending NBA champions look pretty good right now—sitting second in the East with quality wins against San Antonio, Atlanta and Brooklyn—keep in mind that Washington managed just their second win in 15 games when they beat Miami by four points on Dec. 4.
The scoring attack in South Beach is paced by NBA All-Stars LeBron James—a once-in-a-generation athlete who is in the prime of his career—and Dwyane Wade, who are averaging 25.4 and 19.4 points per game, respectively. Right behind them is Chris Bosh (18.1 points per game) who gives Miami three players in the league’s top 21 scorers. Their starting lineup is rounded out by Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem, the latter of whom recently replaced Shane Battier at power forward. Veteran Ray Allen comes off the bench, but he holds the team’s fourth-best scoring average (12.1 PPG) and their top free throw percentage (.860).
The Heat are 11-2 at American Airlines Arena this season.
Last Time Out: December 30, 2012
Minnesota almost spoiled LeBron James’ 27th birthday, but Miami squeaked out a win when James tossed an alley-oop to Dwyane Wade with 4.6 seconds left to give the Heat the final advantage, 103-101.
"I'm glad we played them early because later they're going to be trouble," Wade said. "I think Timberwolves fans will have something to cheer about for a while here."
Ricky Rubio (12 points, 12 assists) and Kevin Love (25 points, 12 rebounds) each had double-doubles, but James scored 34 points on his birthday and also dished out 10 assists. Chris Bosh added 20 points and nine rebounds.
Key Matchup: LeBron James and Andrei Kirilenko
James may be playing the best basketball of his career thus far, posting personal bests shooting percentages from the field (.541) and from deep (.424). In fact, James’ shooting efficiency has steadily climbed each season since 2006-07, and although he is not scoring as much as he did in Cleveland, his team is much more balanced. He’s the star of the defending champions, and he has Miami playing like a team that will be contenders again.
Another lengthy forward enjoying a great season to date is Andrei Kirilenko, Minnesota’s small forward who will be standing across from James. Leading a team defense that allows just 93.7 points per game (fourth-best in the NBA), Kirilenko is enjoying a comeback season after spending last year in Russia. He is near his career highs in defensive rebounding, steals, and blocks all while averaging a career-low 1.2 personal fouls per game. Kirilenko is the stopper for the Wolves, and he’s doing it by sticking to his veteran savvy rather than sacrificing cheap fouls. You can bet that Kirilenko will spend a great deal of time guarding James, and that makes this a key matchup for tonight.
The Wolves got Kevin Love back last night after he missed Saturday’s game with flu-like symptoms, but Josh Howard did not play with his hyper-extended right knee and is listed as doubtful for tonight’s game. Wolves guard Ricky Rubio is expected to sit tonight as the team eases him back into game play—they’re being cautious as he played last night in Orlando. The Heat enter tonight’s game with a full bill of health.
|Tonight's Probable Starters|
|PG||Luke Ridnour||Mario Chalmers|
|SG||Alexey Shved||Dwyane Wade|
|SF||Anderi Kirilenko||LeBron James|
|PF||Kevin Love||Udonis Haslem|
|C||Nikola Pekovic||Chris Bosh|