Cavaliers-Timberwolves Preview

The Associated Press

Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams were the top picks in last year's draft, but the potential matchup to watch Friday night when the Cleveland Cavaliers face the Minnesota Timberwolves is between Irving and Ricky Rubio.

Irving and Rubio are the top rookies in assists per game heading into their first meeting at the Target Center.

Cleveland (3-3) and Minnesota (2-4) finished with the league's worst records a season ago, paving the way for the Cavaliers to select Irving with the draft's top selection and the Timberwolves to take Williams at No. 2.

While Williams is coming off the bench to average 7.2 points and 4.2 rebounds, Irving has established himself as Cleveland's starting point guard. Irving's 14.2 scoring average leads all rookies, and his 5.3 assists per game are the second-best mark among first-year players.

Irving is looking to bounce back after he missed 10 of 13 shots and finished with 12 points and four assists in Wednesday's 92-77 loss at Toronto in the second half of back-to-back games.

"I'm feeling pretty good, my body feels alright." Irving said. "I got banged up a little bit out there, I fell to the floor a few times but I'm good. I'm going to take advantage of this day off and take care of my body the best I can and just get ready for Minnesota."

The player ahead of Irving among rookies in assists is Rubio, totaling 7.0 per game to lead all reserves. Rubio was drafted fifth overall by Minnesota in 2009, and has received plenty of minutes backing up Luke Ridnour.

The Spanish guard notched his second double-double with 12 points and 10 assists Wednesday in a 90-86 home loss to Memphis. Minnesota missed a chance to win three straight, and its four losses have come by a combined 13 points.

"We're young, we know, and of course we're going to improve, but we have to do it right now," Rubio told the Timberwolves' official website. "It depends on us. We have to improve, we know it."

The Timberwolves committed 17 turnovers, and are last in the league with 19.3 per game.

"They were way too lax in their approach,'' coach Rick Adelman said.

With Irving and Rubio taking the spotlight on the perimeter, the focus on the interior will be on Kevin Love. The fourth-year big man is second in the league with 15.0 rebounds per game with double-doubles in every contest.

Love is the first player to have at least 20 points and 12 rebounds in each of his team's first six games since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975. Love averaged 22.0 points and 18.5 boards as Minnesota swept two games from Cleveland last season after losing the previous nine when LeBron James was with the Cavs.

Cleveland continues to rebuild around young players without James, with rookie Tristan Thompson joining Irving as a player vital to its future. Thompson, the fourth overall pick, had his worst game Wednesday by missing all five shots for one point and three rebounds.

"I thought he didn't play well at all," coach Byron Scott said. "But he isn't the only one. Looking at that scorecard, we didn't have many guys that played well."

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