76ers Blog: Pre-Game Notes ~ 12/11/2013 @ Minnesota
12/11/2013 7:23:00 PM
The 76ers (7-15; 4th-Atlantic Division, 12th-Eastern Conference) begin a two-game, three-day road against the Minnesota Timberwolves (10-11; 4th-Northwest Division, 11th-Western Conference). The brief trek wraps up Friday, with a visit to the division-rival Toronto Raptors. The Sixers - according to Brett Brown - will be without rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams for a fourth straight game, and eighth time overall this season. Carter-Williams continues to deal with the lingering after-effects of a right knee skin infection.
The Timberwolves are lead by one of the most complete power forwards in all of the NBA, Kevin Love; he ranks sixth in the NBA with an average of 23.8 points per game, and tops the league with 13.8 rebounds per game. Minnesota's roster has some other solid pieces that give the team decent balance. Point guard Ricky Rubio - despite averaging a career-low 8.7 points per game - is on pace for arguably his most efficient season. The Wolves also signed steady shooting guard Kevin Martin this past off-season; he's ninth in the NBA with 22.7 points per game.
Minnesota jumped out to a strong start this year, going 6-3 to begin its schedule. Since then, the T-Wolves have managed four victories over their last 12 games.
PG Michael Carter-Williams ~ Skin infection (out)
F Shabazz Muhammad ~ Right ankle
The 76ers have lost their last three games, a skid that began with a 105-88 road defeat to the Charlotte Bobcats. Head coach Brett Brown has since labeled the performance one that he was "ashamed" of. The trigger behind Brown's disappointment was the defensive effort his team showed versus a Charlotte group that went into the game ranked dead-last in the NBA in offense.
While the Sixers have not won since that loss to the Bobcats, the defense has made some strides. On Saturday, the Sixers limited the Denver Nuggets - which entered the evening averaging 105 points - to a respectable 49 points in the first half. Monday, the Sixers contained the Los Angeles Clippers (yes, the Clippers were a bit short-handed) to 94 points; the Clippers carried 101.7 scoring average into that match-up.
"I think we're just trying to focus on the simple things, like transition defense, and cutting down on paint points," said shooting guard Hollis Thompson. As for the Sixers' approach to trying to contain a potent Minnesota Timberwolves team that features a deep front court, Thompson said, "I think they got a lot of guys that can score. I think you start in the paint, starting with their big men, keeping them out of the paint, keeping them off of the boards, and go from there."
Minnesota is looking to re-capture the momentum it generated through the first two weeks of the season, when it started 7-4. The Timberwolves are emerging from a challenging stretch during which they faced six consecutive opponents with winning percentages of at least .500; the Wolves won a single game during that period.
Before the month ends, the schedule for Rick Adelman's team isn't getting any easier. The T-Wolves have games against the San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Los Angeles Clippers all slated prior to Christmas.
"We've got a tough stretch ahead of us," Adelman said following a recent practice. "I think you just have to maintain where you are, and be realistic. Our schedule is brutal until January. You've got to go out and get wins now."
Find a one-on-one phone conversation with 76ers starting shooting guard Hollis Thompson linked beneath the image in the upper right corner of this article.