Sixers-Timberwolves: 5 things you need to know

Sixers-Timberwolves: 5 things you need to know
January 6, 2014, 4:45 pm
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The Sixers (12-21) will look to extend their win streak to five games when they return home to face the Minnesota Timberwolves (16-17).

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. (CSN) at the Wells Fargo Center.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Homecoming
The Sixers return to their home floor on Monday from their season-long six-game road trip. After dropping the first two games by double digits in Milwaukee and Phoenix, the Sixers won a season-high four straight and snapped their 13-game road skid in the process.

The Sixers have maintained their high-motor offense and made adjustments to their leaky defense.

“We are a team that is growing,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “We are a team that is slowly finding an identity in regards to defense, and we have always had an identity with pace and offense. But we are slowly finding an identity with defense within ourselves. We know we have a long way to go.”

The Sixers now bring that newfound mix home, where they are 7-8 this season, to battle a Timberwolves team that is just 6-11 on the road.

2. Did somebody say defense?
The Sixers knew defense had been the cause of their demise far too often this season and they finally started doing something about it.

They are giving up 102.3 points per game during their win streak, well below their league-worst mark of 110.6 a contest. The Sixers are also allowing opponents to shoot only 38.7 percent from the field over the last four games.

That improved defense was no more evident than Saturday night’s win over the Portland Trail Blazers. The Sixers held the Blazers to a season-low 36.4 percent from the field and 13.6 percent (3 of 22) from three-point range.

The Sixers will need to keep up that same effort on Monday against a Minnesota squad that ranks second in the NBA in scoring with 106.8 points per game.

3. Head of the board
Monday’s tilt will pit two of the league’s better rebounding teams against one another.

The Timberwolves rank fourth in the NBA in rebounding (45.8 a game), while the Sixers are right behind them at fifth (45.5).

When these two teams met back on Dec. 11, the Timberwolves won the rebounding battle by eight. Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic were particularly strong on the glass, grabbing 15 and 10 rebounds, respectively.

Offensive rebounds will be especially key, too. The T-wolves are second in the league in offensive rebounding (13.8 per game), which is a direct link to why they’re also third in second-chance points (15.8). The Sixers aren’t far behind at eighth (12.0) and fourth (15.5) in those respective categories.

4. Injuries
Nerlens Noel (knee), Arnett Moultrie (ankle) and Jason Richardson (knee) are all out.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (groin) is day to day.

Chase Budinger (knee) and Ronny Turiaf (elbow) could return this week for the Timberwolves after missing significant time.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost four straight to the Timberwolves.

• Thaddeus Young is averaging 26.4 points a night over the past seven games, up from his season average of 18.3. He was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday.

• The Timberwolves are 5-14 when allowing more than 100 points this season.

• Love is averaging 15.0 points per game in eight career games against the Sixers, his lowest total against any opponent.

• Evan Turner is averaging 23.0 points per game during the Sixers’ win streak. The team is 11-6 this season when he scores at least 22 points and 1-14 when he doesn’t.