By: Dan Slaubaugh
Happy Sunday, Wolves fans.
The Wolves are in Oklahoma City tonight for a matchup against the new-look Thunder, who are fresh off their biggest offseason in franchise history acquiring Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. I'm absolutely dumbfounded how Thunder General Manager Sam Presti was able to pull this off without giving up a first round pick WHILE unloading the hefty contracts of Enes Kanter and Victor Oladipo. In an offseason where the Wolves acquired Jimmy Butler, these transactions were frustrating to see for Wolves fans. But life goes on.
Having said all that, the Thunder struggled mightily last night in Utah falling 96-87 to Ricky Rubio and the Jazz. Carmelo Anthony poured in a team-high 26 points while Paul George chipped in 22. Russell Westbrook finished with 6 points, 9 assists, and 13 rebounds.
The Wolves are coming off a win against the same team that beat Oklahoma City last night, Utah, in a thrilling Home Opener in front of an electric Target Center crowd eager to see their new-look squad and renovated arena.
The Western Conference grind continues tonight in Oklahoma City.
What: Wolves @ Thunder
When: 6:00 PM CT
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena. Oklahoma City, OK.
Where to watch: Fox Sports North
Where to listen: 830 WCCO
What to watch for:
Slowing down the reigning MVP: The Wolves will have their hands full tonight trying to slow down the most explosive player in the league in Russell Westbrook. I believe Wolves Head Coach Tom Thibodeau should place Andrew Wiggins on Westbrook, as Jeff Teague stands too slow and small to effectively defend a player with Russell's explosiveness for 32 plus minutes. Jimmy Butler is an intriguing option to place on Westbrook as well, but I believe his size and strength serves most useful defending the 6'9", 220lb Paul George. It's worth noting that in two games, Westbrook appears willing to take fewer shots this season while facilitating more, averaging just 11.5 FGA through two games.
Bench production: The Wolves bench played splendidly Friday night, outscoring the Jazz second unit 32-18. They have Jamal Crawford to thank for that, who single-handedly willed the Wolves to a win scoring all 17 of his points in the fourth quarter. The Wolves newcomer has impressed so far in his short time in Minnesota, averaging 13.5 points (9/15 FG, 3/6 3PTFG) and 3.0 assists through two games. Another bench catalyst through two games has been Nemanja Bjelica, who has shot well from deep (7/13 FG, 3/4 3PTFG), allowing Minnesota more floor spacing when he's on the court. The non-factors of the second unit: Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad; two players who need to start producing tonight.
Iso ball: I think Minnesota matches up pretty decent with Oklahoma City for a few reasons. 1) With a lot of new players (two in particular) looking for shots, they don't have the great ball movement yet that's needed to be a good three-point shooting team where the opposition needs to communicate a lot and rotate. 2) There are questions about chemistry. Will George be OK with a role as No. 2 guy heading into free agency? Does Carmelo need the ball in his hands to be productive? There seem to be plenty of questions in the air for both teams heading into tonight's game with each trying to answer them positively one step at a time.
Minnesota: PG Jeff Teague, SG Andrew Wiggins, SF Jimmy Butler, PF Taj Gibson, C Karl-Anthony Towns
Oklahoma City: PG Russell Westbrook, SG Andre Roberson, SF Paul George, PF Carmelo Anthony, C Steven Adams
Minnesota: Justin Patton (foot)
Oklahoma City: PJ Dozier, Daniel Hamilton, Kyle Singler
Wolves lose 106-97. Oklahoma City kills Minnesota in the open court and in transition. Towns picks up his first 25+ point game of the season while grabbing 11 rebounds. Bazz wakes up a little (seems to play well in OKC), contributing 7 points and 3 rebounds off the bench. Russ snares his second triple-double of the season.