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Preview: Cleveland At Minnesota

When: 8:00 PM ET, Friday, January 8, 2016
Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Minnesota Timberwolves’ scoring problems reached a new low in the fourth quarter on Wednesday, and things are not getting any easier. The Timberwolves will try to find a way to keep up with Kyrie Irving and company when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.

Minnesota failed to reached 100 points in any of its last nine games – losing eight – and managed only nine points in the fourth quarter of a 78-74 home loss to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. “We have to keep tweaking things to be able to score the ball a little bit,” Timberwolves interim coach Sam Mitchell told reporters. “We’re not a great shooting team. It’s something we have to continue to teach and work on.” The Cavaliers are winners of five straight and went over 120 points in each of the last two wins as Irving settles into an everyday role. Irving reached season highs in each of those two games, topped by 32 points in Wednesday’s 122-115 win at Washington.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, FSN Ohio (Cleveland)

ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (24-9): Irving, who suffered a fractured kneecap during the NBA Finals, played only his seventh game since returning on Wednesday and has yet to play in a back-to-back. “Obviously it was encouraging and exciting for him and for us,” coach David Blatt told reporters of the performance against the Wizards. “I would still stay in timbering mode. Those are two pretty big performances after being out for so long, it’s only reasonable to expect that he’s gonna go through a process and still have days when he’s better and days when he’s gonna have some signs that he was out.” Irving is 24-of-38 from the field in the last two games.

ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (12-24): Rookie Karl-Anthony Towns and reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins both had multiple opportunities to score down the stretch but could not get anything to fall against the Nuggets. The two needed 28 shots to score a combined 25 points on Wednesday, and Towns has slumped to an average of 10 points in the last three games. “We have to win,” center Karl-Anthony Towns said after scoring 14 points with 14 rebounds. “We have to change the tide. We can’t keep losing these games.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Timberwolves C Nikola Pekovic (Achilles) made his season debut on Wednesday and recorded 12 points in 16 minutes off the bench.

2. Cavaliers G J.R. Smith is 13-of-24 from 3-point range in the last two games.

3. Cleveland took both meetings last season by an average of 18.5 points.

PREDICTION: Cavaliers 112, Timberwolves 85