By: Dan Slaubaugh
The Wolves are in Cleveland tonight for a matchup with the reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavs have struggled mightily as of late, posting a 7-8 record in the month of January and falling to low-tier teams in Dallas, New Orleans, and Sacramento.
Things won't get any easier for them tonight without power forward Kevin Love, who's set to miss his second straight game due to back spasms.
Concerning the Wolves, things are looking truly bright for perhaps the first time this season. They've won five out of their last six and eight of 11 following an abysmal start to the season. They most recently defeated the Orlando Magic in overtime Monday at home behind Andrew Wiggins' 27 points.
Wiggins and the Wolves look to hand Cleveland another L tonight in The Land.
What: Wolves @ Cavs
Where: Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland, Ohio.
When: 6:00 p.m. CT
Where to watch: ESPN, FS North
Where to listen: 830 WCCO
What to watch for:
Replacing Love's production: The trio of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love average 25 made field goals per game. The entire Cavaliers team average 39.1. The trio also accounts for 16.1 of the 21.8 assists the team averages. Hence, they'll need to find a way to replace Love's production tonight. A big game by bruising big man Tristan Thompson would be a start. Regardless, an already shallow Cleveland frontcourt that's now missing Love is a welcome sight for Minnesota.
Defending the long ball: The Cavs have made 12 three-pointers in six of their last seven games and are shooting 41% (46/114) from three in their last four games. Minnesota has done a fine job of defending the triple this season, ranking 11th in opponents three-point percentage. Kevin Love's absence will certainly help these percentages tonight. Now it's up to Zach LaVine to fight through the million screens Kyle Korver will be curling off of for triples.
Finding ways to win: If tonight's game comes down to the wire, it will be very interesting to see how the Wolves perform in crunch time against the East's top team on the road. We've started to witness Andrew Wiggins become a clutch player. Karl-Anthony Towns is right there as well.
This team has found ways to win close games as of late. Let's hope that continues tonight.
The Cavs own the Eastern Conference's best home record and 2nd-best home record in the NBA at 21-5 (.808).
The Cavs have won four straight games over the Wolves by an average of 17.5 points per game (117.5-100.0).
Karl-Anthony Towns is averaging 28.3 points and 12.7 rebounds in his last 11 games. He's 14/29 from beyond the arc in his last 12.
Andrew Wiggins is averaging 28.8 points on 57.7% FG and 59% 3pt FG in four career games vs. the Cavs. (h/t Drew Mahowald).
I don't think either defense will be able to get many stops tonight, thus it should be a high-scoring affair. Cleveland will miss Love, but LeBron will be playing angry and that's not usually very fun for the opposing team.
Cavs win 113-106. LeBron goes for a triple-double. Wiggins pours in 32.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the game. Go Wolves.