76ers-Timberwolves Preview

The Associated Press

After suffering through their worst shooting effort of the season, the Philadelphia 76ers may be able to get untracked against their next opponent.

The 76ers have used hot shooting performances to win three straight over the Minnesota Timberwolves but will have to contend with a surging Kevin Love on Sunday night at the Target Center.

Philadelphia (20-11) finished at 33.7 percent from the field in Friday's 82-75 home loss to Dallas. The 76ers shot 21.4 percent in scoring 24 points in the second half, and their starters combined to miss all 14 shots after the break.

"I thought we missed a lot of shots that we usually make, didn't get them to go," said coach Doug Collins, whose club is seeking to avoid its first three-game skid.

Andre Iguodala was 2 of 9 overall for 10 points while the starting backcourt of Jrue Holiday and Jodie Meeks missed all 12 shots for three points. Leading scorer Lou Williams was held to 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting.

"We had a look on our faces of concern, and we have to do a better job of getting out of those funks like that," Iguodala said. "It kind of lingered with us. It's a learning experience."

Iguodala has been the driving force in Philadelphia's three-game run over Minnesota (15-16), averaging 20.3 points, 8.7 assists and 6.3 rebounds with a triple-double in the last meeting. The 76ers are shooting 53.7 percent during that win streak, the same percentage Elton Brand has had while averaging 18.0 points over the three games.

Brand will likely get some chances to defend Love, whose seven straight double-doubles have pushed his NBA-leading total to 27. Love is averaging 29.2 points and 16.6 boards in five games since returning from a two-game suspension for "driving his foot into the upper body and face of Houston's Luis Scola as Scola was lying on the floor" in a 100-91 win Feb. 4.

The power forward faced the Rockets for the first time since that incident and had 33 points and 17 rebounds Friday in a 111-98 road victory.

Second-year center Nikola Pekovic added a career-high 30 points and 12 rebounds for his fourth straight double-double.

"We thought we had a big advantage before the game with Love and Pek inside," coach Rick Adelman said. "A lot of people haven't paid attention to Pek, but he's been doing this to everybody."

The Sixers may be more aware of Pekovic than most teams. His 16 points in a 111-100 loss at Philadelphia on March 4, 2011, marked his highest total of his rookie season.

"He is a rising star," Love said. "He's been playing great this season for us and we are happy to have him. He's a guy that you put out there and he's going to get points, rebounds and draw fouls on the other team."

Love and Pekovic could be difficult to handle for a Philadelphia team that remains without starting center Spencer Hawes, who has missed the last six games with a strained left Achilles.

While Minnesota has allowed an average of 98.8 points in its last five games, the Sixers lead the league this season in scoring defense (87.2 ppg).

They're eager to begin a three-game trip after losing their third straight at home.

"We lost some games we should have won here now," Brand said. "Get back on the road, got a three-game stretch and then the All-Star break. Guys can get mentally right and get their bodies healed."

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