Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves (16-18) @ Dallas Mavericks (15-23)

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Dallas beat Memphis 104-83 Saturday night, blitzing the Grizzlies early, getting out to a 54-39 halftime lead. The Mavs have won 2 in a row (the first was their own overtime win over the not-yet Seattle Sacramento Kings) after losing 4 straight.

Probable Mavericks starting lineup:

PG Darren Collison

SG OJ Mayo

SF Shawn Marion

PF Dirk Nowitzki

C Chris Kaman

Nowitzki’s been back 11 games. The Mavs are 3-8 in those. They are figuring it out slowly. Dirks’s minutes are up, he’s started the last 5. He is at 33 minutes a game, with 17 points on 43% shooting from the field and 47% from deep.

Marion has been hot in the Mavs two wins, scoring 19 and 20, shooting 64%.

The Mavs out-rebounded the Kings 52-41 (getting 10 from Mayo, of all people), and out-shot the Griz (11-17 from 3, with Nowitzki, Marion, Collison, Mayo and Jae Crowder not missing) to get their two-game winning streak.

Wolves probable starting lineup:

PG Luke Ridnour

SG Alexey Shved

SF Andrei Kirilenko

PF Dante Cunningham

C Nikola Pekovic

The rookie wall would seem to be upon Shved. He is shooting 29% from the field and 25% from 3 over the last 5. It would be easy to understand, given his rookie status and Shved’s workload. Still, he is the Wolves most effective perimeter playmaker, among Wolves starters — even during this tough stretch, he is averaging almost 6 assists per game. It’s tempting to think his shooting would recover if he were allowed to spot up for shots more often than taking them off the dribble.

Comparatively, Ridnour’s shot 16-32 (50%) over his last 3 — on fire, for him this season. Unfortunately, his hot-handedness hasn’t extended to the 3-point line, where the Wolves could use it most. He’s hit just 3-9 over the same span, still, comparatively on fire, for this team. Luke’s defense has been exposed repeatedly, and to disastrous results, most of the season, but it’s tempting to think what a more limited role could mean for his percentages.

Ricky Rubio’s own shooting struggles (1-12 over the last 3) have been on display, tempering any hopes of him moving into the starting lineup anytime soon. The cap on his minutes could be raised later this week, and this is to be only his second series of back-to-back games allowed by the Wolves medical staff this year. Watching the Wolves get out-done by the Spurs, Hornets and Thunder hasn’t done much to soothe the impatient beast that is Wolves Nation, but in the midst of horrendous injury woes, Rubio’s progress will still be treated conservatively, as he continues his journey back to full health.

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