By: Dan Slaubaugh
From everyone at On The Prowl, Merry Christmas. We hope your days will be filled with joy, laughter, and lots of Wolves wins through the New Year.
Christmas brings a different taste to Wolves fans this year, as the Pups will lace it up for the first time in franchise history on this special day.
While excitement is high for tonight's game against Oklahoma City, I'm simply hoping the team can put on a good performance in front of the national audience on one of the biggest stages of the NBA season. After all, I'm sure the schedule-makers predicted the Wolves would be sitting in a much better place going into today's game than they currently are (9-20, 13th in WC).
Regardless, you have every reason to be excited for tonight's game. It should be a fun one.
What: Wolves @ Thunder
Where: Chesepeake Arena. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
When: 7pm CT
Where to wtach: ESPN
Where to listen: 830 WCCO
What to watch for:
Slowing down the MVP candidate: The Wolves will have their hands full tonight strying to slow down the most explosive player in the leauge in Russell Westbrook, who poured in his 14 triple double of the season in a win over the Celtics on Friday. Westbrook leads the NBA in scoring (31.8) and is second in assists (10.8). The ball is in his hands a ton, indicative of a league-leading 42.0USG%. That's ridiculous, especially considering the next highest is Demarcus Cousins at 37.5%. If the Wolves can hold Westbrook to under 30 points tonight, they'll have a great shot at grabbing their first ever Christmas win.
Bench production: The Wolves bench has been awful lately. They scored just 11 points in the loss to Sacramento on Friday night, basically forcing Tom Thibodeau to play his starters huge minutes in order to keep them off the floor. Bazz used to be an unkown commodity. Now he's just unkown. Dunn has quick speed and great handle, but has no idea what to do with it. Bjelica hasn't been awful, but he needs to be better. They have to find a way to be more productive and find the cohesiveness they exhibited a few weeks ago against the Knicks and Hornets on the road.
Wolves post defense: Minnesota has struggled to defend in the paint all season, which could be problematic tonight against big men Steven Adams and Enes Kanter. Towns has regressed on that side of the floor so far this season, which is a reason for concern. That said, expect Aldrich to receive 15+ minutes tonight to take some of the pressure off him and Dieng against OKC's bigs.
Victor Oladipo is out for tonight's game (sprained right wrist), so the Thunder will rely on Russell Westbrook even more than they already do. Expect him to put up 30+ shots.
The Thunder took the season's first meeting between these two teams, prevaling 112-92 in an early November tilt.
After Friday night's victory, Minnesota became the first team in NBA history to have three 40+ point scorers (KAT, Wiggins, LaVine) in a single season, all age 22 or younger.
With Oladipo unavaliable to play tonight, the Wolves can solely focus on Westbrook on the perimeter. Because of that, I'm predicting Russell Westbrook to still stuff the stat-sheet, but in an inefficent manner.
Wolves win 109-104. Wiggins pours in 36 points. KAT grabs another double-double. Zach LaVine gives us the best Christmas gift we could possibly ask for throwing down a 720 dunk from the free-throw line.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the game. Have a wonderful Christmas.