76ers Blog: Pre-Game Notes ~ 1/6/2014 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
1/6/2014 6:41:00 PM
The 76ers (12-21; T3rd-Atlantic Division, T10th-Eastern Conference) return to South Philadelphia to host the Minnesota Timberwolves (16-17; 3rd-Northwest Division, T9th-Western Conference) at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers, which have not played a home game since their December 20th, 2013 overtime victory versus the Brooklyn Nets, are in the midst of their most successful stretch of the season. They've won four games in a row for the first time since the end of their 2011-2012 schedule, and are - somewhat remarkably - just 1.5 games out of the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
The Minnesota Timberwolves pass through town for the first and only time during the regular season, looking for a fifth consecutive win over the Sixers. Minnesota wiped away a 19-point, second-quarter deficit in the first meeting between the two teams back on December 11th; the Wolves won the game, 106-99, behind Kevin Love's 26 points and 15 rebounds. Minnesota suffered a narrow 115-111 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder this past Saturday. The defeat capped a 1-2 home stand for the Timberwolves, and prevented them from crossing the .500 mark for what would have been the first time since their 15th game of the season.
76ers' rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams will be available to play. He's averaging 17.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 7.2 assists, and 2.9 steals per game this season, but endured a head injury when he collided with Thaddeus Young in the final seconds of the Sixers' 101-99 victory at the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday.
Carter-Williams actively took part in shooting drills following this morning's light workout, and offered an optimistic outlook on his health.
"I'm feeling fine now, I don't have any headaches," said Carter-Williams. "I'm going to be out there, and just playing. I went through practice today, and felt fine."
Since Carter-Williams' return from a seven-game absence caused by a right knee skin infection, the Sixers have gone 5-2. As valuable as his production has been on the offensive side of the floor, he's emerged as a vital component to helping improve the Sixers' defense. During their four-game winning streak, the Sixers have held opponents to a combined 38.7 field goal shooting percentage, and 25.2 three-point field goal shooting percentage (27-107).
The Minnesota Timberwolves' starting line-up presents multiple threats. Point guard Ricky Rubio hands out an average of 8.3 assists per game, which ranks fifth in the NBA. He also pries away a league-best 2.9 steals per game.
Two imposing front court weapons play in front of Rubio. Center Nikola Pekovic - inked to a new five-year, $60 million deal this off-season - has generated 17 double-doubles so far, tying him for the NBA's tenth-highest total. He forms one half of the routinely damaging tandem that also consists of versatile power forward Kevin Love. Love - a United States Olympian and All-Star - has generated a double-double in all but three of the games he's appeared in; his 26.4 points rank second in the NBA, while his 13.5 rebounds pace the league.
"They help each other out," Minnesota's third-year head coach Rick Adelman said of Pekovic and Love. "Pek's very strong inside, and when Kevin's on the floor, he draws a lot of attention, which opens up the lane for Pek. We really need those two. They've been playing at a high level for the past week. They compliment each other very well."
In the Timberwolves' loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday, Pekovic and Love each finished with double-doubles, combining to produce 61 points and 25 rebounds.
Find linked beneath the photo in the upper right corner of the article a one-on-one conversation with Sixers forward Thaddeus Young, named the latest recipient of the Eastern Conference's Player of the Week award.