Setting the Table: Minnesota Timberwolves (Game 24)

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on December 15, 2012 under Previews | Be the First to Comment

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The Dallas Mavericks (11-12) are finishing up the second night of their back-to-back on Saturday night as they take on the Minnesota Timberwolves (11-9). The game marks the highly anticipated season debut of point guard Ricky Rubio for the Timberwolves. This will mark the first time since March 9 of last year that Rubio has played a game. Rubio is returning from a left knee injury sustained in the closing moments of the Wolves’ game with the Los Angeles Lakers last March, when he sustained a torn ACL and LCL. Rubio had surgery to repair the knee March 21.

The Mavericks have dropped back-to-back road games (at Boston 12/12 and at Toronto 12/14). Dallas has only one three-game losing streak this season (at New York 11/9-vs. Minnesota 11/12). As noted, this will be the second night of a back-to-back for Dallas. The Mavericks are 1-5 in the first half of a back-to-back and 2-3 in the second half of a back-to-back this season. The Mavericks have 16 back-to-backs in 2012-13, with only one stretch of four games in five nights. In total, 10 back-to-backs are on the road, three begin at home and conclude on the road and three are road-to-home. Dallas played 22 back-to-backs in 2011-12, going 7-15 in the first half and 13-9 in the second half of those back-to-backs.

Here are the notes for the game between the Mavericks and the Timberwolves.

Series Notes:

The Mavericks have won 19 of the last 23 regular-season meetings with the Timberwolves, but Minnesota has taken three of the last four. The Timberwolves recorded a 90-82 victory in the first meeting between the two teams this season at Dallas on 11/12/12. Darren Collison tallied a game-high 21 points, five assists and two steals for Dallas in the loss. O.J. Mayo contributed 18 points and five boards. Chris Kaman (12) was the only other player in double figures for Dallas in the game on 11/12/12. Dirk Nowitzki (right knee surgery) and Shawn Marion (sprained left MCL) were both inactive for Dallas on 11/12/12. Marion averaged 10.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.3 blocks and 31.0 minutes in three starts against Minnesota last season.

With the victory on 11/12/12, Minnesota has now won two consecutive games at American Airlines Center (defeated Dallas 105-90 on 1/25/12). The Mavericks have still taken 10 of the last 13 meetings in Dallas however. The Mavericks have also won 10 of the last 11 meetings in Minnesota. The Timberwolves defeated the Mavericks 99-82 at Minnesota last season on 1/1/12. It was the Mavericks’ first loss in Minnesota since 1/4/06 (lost 91-78). On 1/1/12, Nowitzki became the sixth player in NBA history to amass 1,000 points against the Timberwolves franchise (joining Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson and Kobe Bryant). Rick Carlisle recorded his 400th career victory against Minnesota on 12/1/10. The home win by Dallas on 12/1/10 was also the 300th by the Mavericks at American Airlines Center.

It’s a Small World:

Timberwolves guard Jose Barea signed with Dallas as a rookie free agent in 2006 and played for the Mavericks from 2006-11, averaging 7.1 points and 2.9 assists in 315 regular-season games (45 starts). He was a member of the Mavericks’ 2011 NBA championship team. Dallas was down 2-1 to Miami in the 2011 NBA Finals, but went on to win three straight games (and ultimately a world championship) after Barea was inserted into the starting lineup for Game 4. Timberwolves forward Josh Howard was drafted by the Mavericks (29th overall pick) in 2003 and spent six-and-half seasons with Dallas before being traded to Washington midway through the 2009-10 season. Howard averaged 15.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 431 regular-season games (368 starts) with Dallas. Howard was named a Western Conference All-Star in 2007.

Mavericks guard O.J. Mayo was a teammate of Timberwolves forward Dante Cunningham on the Memphis Grizzlies in 2011-12. Mayo was originally drafted by Minnesota in the first round (third overall pick) of the 2008 NBA Draft but had his draft rights traded to Memphis with Greg Buckner, Marko Jaric and Antoine Walker in exchange for Brian Cardinal, Mike Miller, Jason Collins and the draft rights to Kevin Love. Love was a college teammate of Mavericks point guard Darren Collison on the 2007-08 UCLA Bruins’ Final Four team. Collison and Mavericks guard Dahntay Jones played with Timberwolves forward Lou Amundson on the Indiana Pacers in 2011-12.

Three Keys:

1. PROTECT THE BALL. The Mavericks have averaged 22.0 turnovers over their last two games. They must do a better job spacing themselves out on the floor on offense and make the right decision when it comes to making a pass.

2. Get O.J. Mayo going early in the game. Mayo has been really quite over the last two opening quarters. Dallas has been operating heavily with Chris Kaman establishing the tone with 15 to 18-foot jumpers, but the Mavericks need to find a way to feed Mayo early and let him get in a groove. Mayo has also averaged 3.8 free throw attempts over his last five games. It should be interesting to see how he does against Minnesota as on the year, Minnesota ranks first overall in fewest free throw attempts allowed per game (19.5 per game).

3. Hope Shawn Marion makes more of an impact on the game. Marion recorded his second straight double-double (third of the season, 407th career) with 12 points, a season-high 13 rebounds, three assists and two steals in 29 minutes at Toronto (12/14). His 13th board at the 7-minute mark of the fourth quarter was the 9,000th rebound of his career. His previous high rebounding total this year was 11 (on two occasions). He has now scored in double figures in seven of his last eight games (vs. L.A. Lakers 11/24-at Toronto 12/14). Marion is averaging 14.0 points, 12.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists over the last two games (at Boston 12/12-at Toronto 12/14). He’s leading the team in rebounds per game and assists per game in that span, and ranks second only to O.J. Mayo (17.0 ppg) in scoring over the last two contests.

Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.