By: Nathan Brinkman
The Timberwolves fill face the New Orleans Pelicans in a back-to -back after losing a tough game down the stretch at home to the Washington Wizards. The Timberwolves have been without starting point guard Jeff Teague as well as key reserve Nemanja Bjelica in recent games and have some what struggled in those contests.
The Wolves and the Pelicans both look like potential western conference playoff teams early on so naturally this will be a key game for both teams. The Wolves did come out on top in the last meeting between the two teams, given they had no injured players and the Pelicans were without veteran starting point guard Rajon Rondo.
What to watch for:
Exhausted Starters: Similar to his days in Chicago, Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau has been playing his starters a ton of minutes to start the season. In last night's game all five starters played at least 37 minutes. Three of the five exceeded 40 minutes. This is cause for concern, especially in a traveling back to back game. Hopefully for the Timberwolves Thibs can find a good starter/bench minutes balance in tonights contest.
Boogie/AD: Demarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis are perhaps the best frontcourt duo since Tim Duncan and David Robinson. The rest of the team, fortunately for the Wolves, is not so great. The Wolves will need to do the best they can to slow down the dominant duo down-low if they hope to come out on top. Taj Gibson Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng can all be good defenders at times, but they will need to be in top form to compete against New Orleans.
Andrew Wiggins: While the Wolves will have their hands full with AD and Cousins, Andrew Wiggins should have a chance to to shine in this game. Wiggins should be the offensive vocal point for the Wolves and I expect him to put up good numbers while getting to the free throw line consistently. If the Wolves are to pull out a victory, it will be Wiggins who leads them there.
Minnesota: PG Tyus Jones, SG Jimmy Butler, SF Andrew Wiggins, PF Taj Gibson C Karl-Anthony Towns
New Orleans: PG Rajon Rondo, SG Jrue Holiday, SF Daunte Cunningham, PF Anthony Davis, C Demarcus Cousins
Pelicans win 104-91. Unfortunately I don't see coach Thibs deciding to ease up on starters minutes, resulting in a tired Wolves squad floundering down the stretch.
By: Jonah Sprinkel
The Minnesota Timberwolves will finish off their first long (four game) home stand of the season against the Washington Wizards, sans John Wall. With the betting line even, the flow of this game should feel familiar to Wolves fans.
By familiar, I mean a game like the one played this last Sunday against the Phoenix Suns. The Wolves continue to find ways to leave the door open to their opposition through poor defense, lazy communication, and inefficient isolation offense. Mistakes like these may not cost the Wolves against teams like Phoenix. However, when a sure-fire playoff team comes to town you can be certain they will try their best to exploit these issues.
What to watch for
Tyus Jones: After posting the NBA’s first ever stat line of nine points, seven assists and seven steals the backup point guard has made a little bit of a name for himself in NBA circles. Hopefully word of Tyus’ stellar night reaches Tom Thibodeau who gives the little man a longer leash. Tyus’ nose for the ball as well as his ability to initiate offense should not go to waste.
Wiz offense v. Wolves defense: The Wizards currently hold the sixth best offense in the league with a 110.4 offensive rating. The Wolves are the proud owners of the league’s 27th ranked defense. Though the Wizards are missing arguably their best player, the lineup that features Tim Frazier in Wall’s spot has stroked the three ball at a 48 percent clip through 4 games.
Karl-Anthony Town’s defense: I don’t know how many times this has been or will be discussed in the Timberwolves world but Town’s need to play defense in order for this team to win consistently. Our own Dan Slaubaugh even had some words on the matter. On some nights the effort is there, other nights, not so much. The one thing that remains the same are the On/Off numbers. With Towns on the floor the Wolves defensive rating sits at a putrid 113.4. Once off the floor, that numbers changes to 103.
Minnesota: PG Jeff Teague, SG Jimmy Butler, SF Andrew Wiggins, PF Taj Gibson C Karl-Anthony Towns
Wizards: PG Tim Frazier, SG Bradley Beal, SF Otto Porter, PF Markieff Morris, C Marcin Gortat
The Wolves win a nail biter 109-107. This team knows the importance of defending their home court and with John Wall out they should be able to exploit Tim Frazier in the pick and roll.
By: Nathan Brinkman
The Timberwolves are squaring off against the Phoenix Suns this afternoon in a Sunday matinee. This will help to ease the emptiness of the Vikings not playing today for Minnesota Sports fans.
After an ugly loss Friday to Miami, the Wolves will look to rebound against a week Suns team. The team is hoping to have point guard Jeff Teague and stand out reserve Nemanja Bjelica back Sunday after both missed Friday's game with injuries. Both players are listed as day to day.
What to watch for:
Tyus Jones: Tyus remained on the bench even with Teague being out on Friday as Aaron Brooks started, but Jones saw extended minutes and played very well. Jones seems to be the type of player who can play a large role while on the court while not necessarily putting up a lot of statistics. If Teague is indeed out, the Wolves will lean heavily on Jones to lead the team as the primary point guard.
Booker/Wiggins: Two of the best young wing players in the NBA, Andrew Wiggins and Devin Booker are often compared to each other by NBA analysts. Most of whom have said they favor Booker's game over Wiggins'. I think Wiggins should be able to out produce Booker in todays contest based on the fact that Booker will have to deal with the defense of Jimmy Butler throughout the game while Wiggins wont see any premier defensive players. This though, was not the case in the last matchup as Booker torched the Wolves for 35 points.
Redemption: The fact of the matter is that the Timberwolves are a flat out better basketball team than the Phoenix Suns. Last time the teams met, the Suns came out on top and embarrassed the Wolves. These types of winnable games are the games in which the Wolves will need to win consistently if they want to contend for a title. The Suns are a Western conference team and the Wolves should come out looking to redeem the previous loss.
Minnesota: PG Aaron Brooks, SG Jimmy Butler, SF Andrew Wiggins, PF Taj Gibson C Karl-Anthony Towns
Phoenix: PG Tyler Ulis, SG Devin Booker, SF TJ Warren, PF Greg Monroe, C Tyson Chandler
115-94, Wolves. I think the Wolves will dominate the Suns at home using the previous loss to the Heat as well as the first loss to Phoenix as motivation.
By: Dan Slaubaugh
Happy Friday, Wolves fans. I hope you're Black Friday shopping is going well. The only discount I'm aware of, after briefly glancing at a Walmart magazine ad this morning, is that PS4's are on sale for $199.99. Unfortunately, I am a poor college student who has no money or I'd be all over that. But none of you came here to see me sulk. So, about them Wolves...
They have a basketball game to play tonight as the Miami Heat are in town. After developing pretty special chemistry late last season during a 30-11 run that almost got them into the playoffs last season, the Heat have been trading wins and losses more than they probably desire through 17 games in 2017-18. Currently 8-9 and fresh off a pair of wins vs. premier teams in Washington and Boston, this will be an important game for them to start making the climb to an above .500 record.
When: 7:00 PM CT
Where: Target Center. Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Where to watch: Fox Sports North
Where to listen: 830 WCCO
What to watch for:
Intensity: Miami has built a culture known for wearing down their opponent by putting immense pressure on the ball and that should continue tonight against the Wolves. With Miami poised to make the Wolves work extremely hard for each basket, this will be an interesting test for a Minnesota team who's starters play 36-plus minutes per night. If the Wolves poor fourth quarter performance this season is indeed related to fatigue, tonight will be the ultimate challenge against a team that doesn't get tired.
Towns-Whiteside: LEAGUE PASS ALERT! This matchup, featuring two of the league's top centers, will be a treat to watch. With Hassan Whiteside (15.5 PPG, 10.3 RBG, 1.8 BPG) being one of the most intimidating presences in the paint the league has to offer, Towns will have to establish his perimeter game early. Whiteside has also been able to expand his offense game that now goes beyond dunking anything around the rim. With Taj Gibson likely to defend power forward Justice Winslow, KAT's slowly but steadily improving defense will need to be on full display.
Defending home court: After playing 10 of their first 17 games on the road, 10 of the travel-weary Timberwolves next 14 games will be played at home. The Wolves need to take advantage of this opportunity and create separation in the West. Winning 9 of their next 14 would put them at 20-12, a record far better than any of us could have hoped or expected through 32 games.
Minnesota: PG Jeff Teague, SG Andrew Wiggins, SF Jimmy Butler, PF Taj Gibson, C Karl-Anthony Towns
Miami: PG Goran Dragic, SG Dion Waiters, SF Josh Richardson, PF Justice Winslow, C Hassan Whiteside.
Wolves lose 106-102. Frankly, I think this is a bad matchup for Minnesota. Tom Thibodeau continues to run his starters into the ground and the Wolves have shown signs of fatigue in the fourth quarter as a result. I think Miami, a team who prides itself on conditioning and limitless stamina, will further expose this weakness and outwork Minnesota for a win in the fourth quarter. Obviously, let's hope this doesn't happen.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the game. Go Wolves.
By: Nathan Brinkman
When: Wednesday, 11/22 , 7:00 PM
Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN
Where to watch: Fox Sports North Plus
Where to listen: 830 WCCO
Winners of eight of their first 12 games, the Orlando Magic (8-9) started the season on fire, especially considering the teams futility over the last several seasons. The team has now lost five straight and are in urgent need of a turnaround.
Unfortunately, the Timberwolves (10-7) are in a similar boat after losing two in a row to relatively beatable teams in Detroit and Charlotte respectively. For the Wolves, the hope is that with the new veteran leadership on the roster the team will be more easily able to bounce back from off games than a youthful team such as Orlando.
Three things to watch for:
Thibodeau's refusal to give Bjelica more minutes
Through 17 games, Nemanja Bjeliaca has been a key cog in the Wolves 10-7 start averaging 7.5 points and 3 rebounds while shooting a blistering 53.8 percent (2nd best in NBA) from three-point range. He's also contributed across the board with a decent defensive effort as well. Head coach Tom Thibodeau has said he's trying to find ways to get Bjelica more playing time, but that has not been the case. Always reluctant to use his bench, Thibs' refusal to make in-season coaching changes is a legitimate concern. This situation particularly feels like Thibs is "scared" for Bjelica to play too well because then there is no justification to not play him more. Let's hope that is not the case and Bjelica starts getting the minutes he deserves.
Karl Anthony Towns, who was named Western Conference Player of the Week after averaging 20.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 2 assists while shooting 55.4 percent from the floor including 9-16 from three point range for games played Nov. 13-19, is one of the all-around best offensive big men in the NBA. He has a plethora of moves and is freakishly athletic. Nikola Vucevic will be matched-up with Towns most of the game. Vucevic, who is a talented back to the basket low post scoring center, is significantly less athletic than Towns. This match-up should be one in which KAT can exploit. I expect Towns to put up at least 25 points and 12 rebounds and perhaps more if he gets a lot of touches. Orlando simply will have no answer for KAT.
The most important aspect of a contending team in any professional sport is grit. After coming off of two consecutive losses the Timberwolves need to dig deep and show that they have the grit it takes to be a great team. The influx of veteran players acquired in the offseason should provide this team with the necessary grit for them to come out and take care of business against the young core of Orlando. If this is not the case, this team will be in trouble if they still expect to do well in or even reach the post season.
Minnesota: PG Jeff Teague, SG Jimmy Butler, SF Andrew Wiggins, PF Taj Gibson, C Karl-Anthony Towns
Orlando: PG Elfrid Payton, SG Evan Fournier, SF Terrence Ross, PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Vucevic
Wolves win 109-88. I think the Wolves have a much better team and a much better veteran leadership group which will allow them to come out and dominate the Magic at home.