Timberwolves-Mavericks Preview

The Associated Press

After getting a practice in during the Thanksgiving break, the slumping Minnesota Timberwolves are hoping to come out with a stronger defensive effort going forward.

The Dallas Mavericks, meanwhile, are coming off their worst offensive performance of the season.

The visiting Timberwolves try to avoid a fourth consecutive loss Saturday night against the Mavericks, who could be without point guard Jose Calderon.

Minnesota (8-9) has lost three straight while surrendering 109.0 points per game and five of six overall. The Timberwolves' struggles were on full display in Wednesday's 117-110 loss to Denver, tied for their most points allowed this season.

Kevin Martin scored 29 for Minnesota, which allowed the Nuggets to shoot 51.1 percent, including 8 of 16 from 3-point range. The Timberwolves, who gave up 60 points in the point, have dropped eight of their last nine when surrendering 42 or more from close range.

"We just came in and allowed them to do whatever they wanted to do at the offensive end. We put up no resistance," an angry coach Rick Adelman said. "There's been all this talk about what kind of team we can be. I don't care about what people talk about or what it looks like on paper. We've done nothing. Right now, are you going to just give in?"

Minnesota has also dropped five in a row on the road while giving up an average of 108.0 points. The Timberwolves, though, are hoping to have worked out some of their kinks during Friday's practice.

"It was one of those times in the year, you know, teams go through," Martin told the team's official website. "We did a lot of defensive stuff today and also mixed in a little offense. Our defense is our weakness now, so we have to turn it around there."

Doing so could prove difficult against Dallas (10-7), which has averaged 108.8 points in going 8-1 at home. The Timberwolves, though, took this season's first meeting 116-108 on Nov. 8 in Minnesota. Martin and Kevin Love scored 32 points apiece that night, while Love added 15 boards and eight assists.

Love is averaging 31.7 points on 54.5 percent shooting in his last three matchups against the Mavericks. The Timberwolves are 4-0 this season when he scores at least 30.

Dallas has dropped three of four after posting its fewest points this season in Friday's 88-87 loss at Atlanta. Calderon scored a team high-tying 16 before leaving with a sprained ankle in the third quarter, leaving his status for this game unclear.

Calderon is averaging 11.1 points, 4.9 assists and shooting a team-best 47.8 percent from 3-point range (44 of 92).

"Calderon is a big part of what they do," said Atlanta's Paul Millsap, whose team erased a 17-point deficit in the second half. "Without him on the court, it kind of helped us out."

Shawn Marion added 15 points and 12 boards for the Mavericks, who shot a season-worst 37.7 percent. They were limited to 12 points and shot 3 of 19 in the fourth quarter, going scoreless over the final 3:26.

"They play good in their house," Marion said. "But still, we should have won this game."

Monta Ellis, averaging a team-leading 21.7 points, has been off his game in the last two. After being held to a season-low four points on 2-of-16 shooting in Wednesday's 103-99 win over Golden State, Ellis had 12 while going 6 for 15 and matched a season high with seven turnovers.

The Mavericks are 9-0 when Ellis dishes out at least five assists compared to 1-7 when he has four or fewer.

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