Timberwolves-Wizards Preview

After eight consecutive losing seasons, the Minnesota
Timberwolves appear to have turned a corner.

The same can’t be said for the last-place Washington
Wizards.

The Timberwolves try to pick up a rare victory in the nation’s
capital Tuesday night against the struggling Wizards.

Kevin Love recorded his 10th double-double with 23 points and 12
rebounds as Minnesota (7-4) beat visiting Boston 106-88 on Saturday
for its fourth win in six games. The Timberwolves, averaging 108.5
points to rank near the top of the NBA, haven’t had a winning
season since going 44-38 in 2004-05.

“In years past, when we were very young and inexperienced, we
would’ve been on that side,” Love said of the struggling Celtics.
“Now that the tides have kind of turned for us, we’re winning the
games that we need to win.”

Nikola Pekovic also came up big with 20 points and 12 boards for
Minnesota, which held Boston to 39.5 percent shooting and scored 28
points off 22 turnovers.

“We’re going to score enough points to beat 80 percent of the
teams in the league,” guard Kevin Martin told the Timberwolves’
official website. “That’s what we have to accomplish to get up to
five, six games over .500. We just have to play defense.”

Martin has been a big part of Minnesota’s success. The 10-year
veteran, who scored 14.0 points per game with Oklahoma City last
season, is averaging 24.4. While his 27 went to waste in Friday’s
117-113 loss at Denver, Martin scored 20 against the Celtics.

“We’re usually more focused after a loss,” he said. “Hopefully
on Tuesday we can program in our minds that we lost
(Saturday).”

Martin is averaging 22.4 points in 13 career matchups against
the Wizards (2-7), his second-highest mark versus any opponent.

Minnesota has dropped eight of nine in Washington, falling
114-101 during its last visit Jan. 25 while playing without Love
and Pekovic.

The Timberwolves could have an edge this time around against a
Wizards team that has averaged 93.8 points and shot 41.2 percent
during a four-game losing streak. Bradley Beal and Nene combined
for 52 points as Washington let one slip away Saturday, falling
103-96 to Cleveland in overtime.

“We got to step up and make plays down the stretch,” said coach
Randy Wittman, whose team was held to six points on 3-of-10
shooting in OT. “That’s just what it boils down to in this league.
You fight for 46, 47 minutes, we got to learn to make plays.”

The Wizards are allowing 104.6 points per game, one of the
league’s worst marks.

“We all have to get on the same page and we have to do a better
job of defending and keeping leads,” Beal said. “That’s one thing
we definitely have to improve on the most.”

While the Wizards are hoping to get on track, they know it’s not
going to get any easier Tuesday.

“Obviously, it puts us in a really bad situation with
Minnesota,” center Marcin Gortat said. “We have to forget about
(Saturday’s loss) as fast as possible, get back to the gym, work on
our game, look in the mirror and ask ourselves, ‘What can we do
better to help our team?'”

A more efficient performance from point guard John Wall could
help. He has averaged 12.8 points on 29.0 percent shooting in the
last five games.