Pekovic's surge ripples through entire offense

The Timberwolves center has enabled coach Rick Adelman to set his offensive schemes without having to guess who has the hot hand.


Nikola Pekovic, who was fouled by Houston Rockets' Samuel Dalembert during the Timberwolves' victory Friday, has helped transform the team's entire offense.

Photo: David J. Phillip, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

In 17 days -- just more than two weeks -- the Timberwolves offense has dramatically changed. It has become more post-driven, more physical. Coach Rick Adelman's rotation has tightened and become more predictable. And it's due in large part to one very large man:

Nikola Pekovic.

But then, as Kevin Love quipped after Saturday's practice, should we be surprised? "He's 290 pounds and he eats weights for a living," Love said.

To be sure, Adelman has been wanting to tighten his rotation for a while -- weeks, really. He said he believes it makes for more continuity in execution when players get used to playing in certain situations and with certain people. The problem was, the team wasn't letting him do that.

"Earlier in the season we weren't having anybody who was separating themselves from the other guys," Adelman said. "One game it'd be one guy, the next game it'd be somebody else. You were always kind of mixing and matching. When a guy like Pek separates himself so much, then you're that much more comfortable. Then you try to figure it out from there."

Look at the boxscore from Friday's victory in Houston. With guard J.J. Barea missing the game to be at the birth of his son, Adelman used just eight players. And the last guy off the bench, rookie Derrick Williams, played less than 10 minutes.

Pekovic has been the fulcrum for much of this. His emergence as a physical presence in the middle and his consistent play has allowed Adelman to use Love, Pekovic and Williams in a big-man rotation, especially when Adelman wants to go with a smaller lineup with Love at center.

The rotation among the perimeter players has more to do with Adelman going with guys who have proven to be dependable, with Martell Webster's recent play pushing him into that mix off the bench along with Michael Beasley. Wayne Ellington, Darko Milicic, Brad Miller, Anthony Randolph and Anthony Tolliver did not play Saturday. Had Barea been available, Adelman would have stretched the rotation to nine players.

"It's one of those things where you get a feel for the players," Adelman said. "You see how they fit in with the team, and the main players. I think it's easier when you play nine guys. It's easier, because then everybody knows what they're going to do. It's tough when a guy is not playing. But when you have 15 healthy guys, it's tough."

What's more impressive is how the Wolves offense has changed. There is more emphasis on the low post, and Adelman loves how Pekovic and Love have worked off each other in recent games. In Houston, the Wolves scored 64 points in the paint, equaling their second-most since 1996 and the most since getting 68 at Charlotte in April 2008.

Pekovic has given Love more one-on-ones, and vice versa. And the two of them occupying defenders has opened lanes for drives to the basket by perimeter players.

And don't think the compressed schedule will keep Adelman from keeping his rotation as tight as possible. "We're trying to win games," he said. "We're trying to set some type of way we're going to play night in and night out. ... Everybody tells me [the players] are young. So they should be able to handle it."


• Adelman was asked about Milicic's future in light of Pekovic's recent play. "He had four different injuries," Adelman said. "Every time we went to a game, he had something wrong. ... And then Pek started playing. It's not like I've purposely said I'm not going to play Darko. But I think it was pretty obvious he has not been healthy since he first went down." Adelman said Milicic was still the backup center, and his playing time should increase against teams with strong post play.

• Barea and his girlfriend, former Miss Universe Zuleyka Rivera, are parents of a new son, Sebastian.

  • related content

  • Gameday: Wolves vs. Philadelphia 76ers

    Sunday February 19, 2012

    Preview: The Wolves, one game below .500, bring a two-game winning streak into the game. The 76ers are coming off two losses in a row -- at Orlando and vs....

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


St. Louis 2
Pittsburgh 4 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Miami 7 FINAL
Washington 11
Detroit 4 FINAL
Philadelphia 4
Minnesota 6 FINAL
Baltimore 5
NY Yankees 7 FINAL
Houston 0
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Boston 3
Baltimore 4 FINAL
Toronto 2
Cincinnati 8 FINAL
LA Angels 6
Chicago Cubs 2 Top 8th Inning
Kansas City 0
Los Angeles 4 Top 7th Inning
San Francisco 8
Chicago WSox 4 FINAL
Cleveland 1
Milwaukee 0 Top 9th Inning
Oakland 7
Seattle 4 Top 8th Inning
San Diego 6
Texas 4 Bottom 7th Inning
Los Angeles 7
Colorado 8 Bottom 8th Inning
Arizona 7
Arizona 1 Top 9th Inning
Colorado 2
Houston 99 FINAL
Washington 91
LA Lakers 99 FINAL
Brooklyn 107
Minnesota 88 FINAL
New Orleans 110
Philadelphia 86 4th Qtr 1:50
Cleveland 87
Detroit 25 1st Qtr 0:32
Miami 23
LA Clippers 34 2nd Qtr 12:00
Boston 20
Dallas 6:00 PM
Memphis 6:00 PM
San Antonio
Oklahoma City 8:00 PM
Washington 5 FINAL
NY Rangers 2
Calgary 4 2nd Prd :03
Nashville 1
Boston 1 2nd Prd 2:39
Carolina 0
Detroit 4 2nd Prd 4:12
NY Islanders 5
Florida 2 2nd Prd 3:47
Ottawa 0
Anaheim 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Chicago 6:30 PM
San Jose 6:30 PM
Michigan State 76 FINAL
Louisville 70
Gonzaga 44 2nd Half 9:20
Duke 48
Philadelphia 0 2nd Half 25:00
Chicago 1
Toronto FC 6:00 PM
Real Salt Lake
(7) Florida State 74 FINAL
(3) South Carolina 80
Villanova 70 FINAL
West Virginia 75
Michigan 69 FINAL
Southern Miss 60
Temple 57 2nd Half 4:08
Middle Tennessee 49
Siena 41 2nd Half 6:30
Louisiana 44
St Marys-CA 62 2nd Half 3:30
(5) Baylor 7:30 PM
(2) Notre Dame
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: What are you following most closely right now?

Weekly Question