By: Dan Slaubaugh
Happy Tuesday, Wolves fans. Hope your holiday break was well and you are transitioning at ease right back into the swing of things. Tonight, the Wolves (12-26) are set to complete their 4 game homestand as the Oklahoma City Thunder (26-12) roll into town. Minnesota has struggled across the board and in all (most) areas of the game lately, resulting in only 1 win over their past 11 games. OKC has won 7 out of their last 10 and are currently sitting #3 in the Western Conference. A win tonight may be hard to come by.
What: Wolves - Thunder
Where: Target Center. Minneapolis, Minnesota.
When: 7:00pm CST
Where to watch: Fox Sports North
Where to listen: 830 WCCO Radio
What to watch for:
Dynamic Duo: Perhaps the league's most dominant 1-2 punch, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant combine for over 50 points a game. In fact, if you look at their statlines, you could make a case for each of them in the MVP race. Durant is averaging 26.5ppg, 7.7rbg, and 4.4apg, while Westbrook is averaging 25.5ppg, 9apg, and 7rpg. That's ridiculous! Rubio and Prince will have to be at their best defensively if the Wolves want to have any chance tonight.
Found something? It took awhile, but the Wolves may have finally found a lineup that works. Towards the 9 minute mark of Sunday afternoon's 4Q against Dallas, Sam rolled out the following unit: Rubio, Wiggins, Bazz, Bjelica, Towns. It was a quality 4Q lineup by Sam, as Minnesota outscored Dallas 32-25 in the 4Q. A couple reasons they did so well is because having 2 three point shooters on the floor (Bazz and Bjelica) opens up the rest of the floor for Wiggins and Towns to do their thing inside, all while Rubio is looking to facilitate and set people up for easy looks (which he does well). Look to see if this particular unit gets more time on the floor tonight.
Lavine struggling: The UCLA product and 1 of Minnesota's building blocks is slumping. The Wolves have been outscored by 127 points over the past 11 when Zach has been on the floor, and he's totaled just 21 points while shooting 20.5% from the field over the past 7. Personally, I'd like to see Sam give him some minutes with Rubio in the backcourt because that is the best way/chance possible for him to break out of his slump. Maybe tonight?
Points: Andrew Wiggins (20.6)
Rebounds: Karl-Anthony Towns (9.2)
Assists: Ricky Rubio (8.9)
Steals: Ricky Rubio (2.3)
Blocks: Karl-Anthony Towns (1.8)
Points: Kevin Durant (26.5)
Rebounds: Enes Kanter, Durant (7.7)
Assists: Russel Westbrook (9.5)
Steals: Russel Westbrook (2.4)
Blocks: Serge Ibaka (2.3)
No injuries have been reported for either team
Well, that is all. The Wolves will be seeing a lot of the Thunder this month. They play again Friday @ OKC (ESPN) and then later again on the 27th back in Minneapolis. The Wolves are in the thick of a brutal stretch. It's not going to be easy, but the Wolves will have to find a way to maintain optimism and not let all the losing bring them down. One of these days, our record (12-26) will be flipped and all of this development/growing pains endured will have paid off.
Prediction: Thunder defeat Wolves 112-98.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the game. Go Wolves.