Timberwolves-Wizards Preview

The Associated Press

After eight consecutive losing seasons, the Minnesota Timberwolves appear to have turned a corner.

The same can't be said for the last-place Washington Wizards.

The Timberwolves try to pick up a rare victory in the nation's capital Tuesday night against the struggling Wizards.

Kevin Love recorded his 10th double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds as Minnesota (7-4) beat visiting Boston 106-88 on Saturday for its fourth win in six games. The Timberwolves, averaging 108.5 points to rank near the top of the NBA, haven't had a winning season since going 44-38 in 2004-05.

"In years past, when we were very young and inexperienced, we would've been on that side," Love said of the struggling Celtics. "Now that the tides have kind of turned for us, we're winning the games that we need to win."

Nikola Pekovic also came up big with 20 points and 12 boards for Minnesota, which held Boston to 39.5 percent shooting and scored 28 points off 22 turnovers.

"We're going to score enough points to beat 80 percent of the teams in the league," guard Kevin Martin told the Timberwolves' official website. "That's what we have to accomplish to get up to five, six games over .500. We just have to play defense."

Martin has been a big part of Minnesota's success. The 10-year veteran, who scored 14.0 points per game with Oklahoma City last season, is averaging 24.4. While his 27 went to waste in Friday's 117-113 loss at Denver, Martin scored 20 against the Celtics.

"We're usually more focused after a loss," he said. "Hopefully on Tuesday we can program in our minds that we lost (Saturday)."

Martin is averaging 22.4 points in 13 career matchups against the Wizards (2-7), his second-highest mark versus any opponent.

Minnesota has dropped eight of nine in Washington, falling 114-101 during its last visit Jan. 25 while playing without Love and Pekovic.

The Timberwolves could have an edge this time around against a Wizards team that has averaged 93.8 points and shot 41.2 percent during a four-game losing streak. Bradley Beal and Nene combined for 52 points as Washington let one slip away Saturday, falling 103-96 to Cleveland in overtime.

"We got to step up and make plays down the stretch," said coach Randy Wittman, whose team was held to six points on 3-of-10 shooting in OT. "That's just what it boils down to in this league. You fight for 46, 47 minutes, we got to learn to make plays."

The Wizards are allowing 104.6 points per game, one of the league's worst marks.

"We all have to get on the same page and we have to do a better job of defending and keeping leads," Beal said. "That's one thing we definitely have to improve on the most."

While the Wizards are hoping to get on track, they know it's not going to get any easier Tuesday.

"Obviously, it puts us in a really bad situation with Minnesota," center Marcin Gortat said. "We have to forget about (Saturday's loss) as fast as possible, get back to the gym, work on our game, look in the mirror and ask ourselves, 'What can we do better to help our team?'"

A more efficient performance from point guard John Wall could help. He has averaged 12.8 points on 29.0 percent shooting in the last five games.

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