Minnesota Timberwolves (3-8) vs. Charlotte Bobcats (3-8) at Time Warner Cable Arena
The Timberwolves are only 4-8 against the Charlotte Bobcats since the team came into existence in 2004 but only one of those four wins has come on the road and that was back in January of 2007. This is the first contest between the two teams in 2010 and it is fair to say that the Wolves and Bobcats are polar opposites this season.
Minnesota's league-leading pace of 102.9 is in stark contrast to Charlotte's league-worst pace of 90.9. Now, I don't know what that really means, but I'm pretty sure it means that the Wolves are going to run Charlotte out of the gym tonight. After all, the more possessions, the more chances you have to score. And I'm told that the more you score, the better chance to your team has to win.
Looking at the lineups, its pretty clear why the Wolves are going to snap their 3-game losing streak to the 'Cats on Monday night. Let's break it down.
Nazr Mohammed is a thirteen-year veteran who has a history of strong performances against the Wolves...until tonight.
Darko Milicic vs. Nazr Mohammed
In his last game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Nazr Mohammed scored 21 points and grabbed 20 rebounds at Target Center in a 93-92 win. Of course, that was to be expected when Al Jefferson - a guy who makes Donald Rumsfeld look skilled at defense - was matched up against him. The Wolves had no Darko. They had no Koufos. They had no Tolliver. And Kevin Love only played 23 minutes, took only 7 shots and grabbed only 7 rebounds in that game.
Now, Mr. Mohammed squares off against "Two Hands Darko!", a Defensive Player of the Year candidate and a guy who - according to some people who attended Friday night's game against the Knicks - received MVP chants from the home crowd at Target Center. Granted, those chants mostly came from this writer, but they were definitely justified given Darko's production this season.
It's really not a contest.
Winner: Darko Milicic
They say the camera adds 10 pounds. We're still trying to figure out how many cameras were on Boris Diaw in this picture.
Kevin Love vs. Boris Diaw
Unfortunately, David Stern turned down my request to have Kevin and Boris square off in a hot dog eating contest prior to tonight's game. I am going to make it happen. Perhaps, in honor of Boris, the contest should involve some kind of French food. Do they eat hot dogs in France? Freedom dogs? But I digress...
Boris Diaw is starting at power forward for the Bobcats, despite Tyrus Thomas having better production and Diaw coming into the season out of shape. For a guy whose main calling card is his defense, poor conditioning would seem to be a major detractor. Luckily for the rest of the East, Larry Brown is not a man who likes change, so Diaw should see his minutes continue with the 'Cats this season.
Kevin Love, meanwhile, is coming off of a letdown performance against the Hawks on Sunday afternoon (only 22 points 17 rebounds) and may be looking to crack 40 against Charlotte. Love has 97 rebounds in his last five games, which is 52 more than Diaw has had all season.
Winner: Kevin Love
I'm less impressed with this block than with the fact that Wally could get up that high in the first place.
I always thought that Gerald Wallace would be a good fit for the Timberwolves'. A lock-down defender with superb athleticism, it was disappointing to me that McHale did not try harder to go after this guy while he was in Minnesota. Now that we have Michael Beasley, however, I'm willing to overlook McHale's failure as a GM and credit his replacement with finding the best wing player in Minnesota since Latrell Sprewell.
"Crash" is going to have his hands full with this matchup, given that Beasley is not only solid at putting the ball on the floor and taking it to the hoop, but is also a solid jump shooter from mid-range. Wallace is the team's point and rebounding leader so far this season, but his numbers are shades below Be Easy's and good offense always trumps good defense.
Look for Beasley to drop a game-high 30 points against the Bobcats tonight.
Winner: Michael Beasley
Jordan and Stephen Jackson discussing the best way to punch fans, teammates and opposing players.
Wesley Johnson vs. Stephen Jackson
When Stephen Jackson joined the Bobcats last season, he quickly became the team's best scorer and gave the team a much needed offensive weapon. Ironically, Jackson's assists totals have gone way down from his days in Golden State - where passing was put at such a premium - but teams can no longer stuff the paint against Charlotte or double-team Gerald Wallace to get stops.
This season, however, his field goal percentage, points per game and rebounds per game have all gone down and his turnover rate has spiked considerably. At the age of 32, is Jackson entering the decline of his career? Considering that the Bobcats have very few options to back him up - Gerald Henderson and Matt Carroll - it is easy to see how the 'Cats could be looking to make a deal to bolster this position.
For tonight's game, Captain Jack goes up against Wesley Johnson, who is either a terrific rookie or a terrible bust, depending on which Minnesota fan you happen to stop on the street (and by street, I mean the little pretend streets we have here at Canis Hoopus, since very few Wolves' fans actually step outside). Of course, people who think Wesley Johnson is anything less than the next Shawn Marion are negative nellies who hate this franchise and everyone in it.
It's that simple, folks.
Winner: Wesley Johnson
D.J. Augustin looks more like the guy who sold me a suit at the Men's Warehouse, not a starting NBA point guard.
Sebastian Telfair vs. D.J. Augustin
Fans are already camped outside of Target Center waiting on the arrival of Jonny Flynn for his first game against the Clippers on Wednesday night. For one more game, however, Sebastian Telfair will hold the reins of the Timberwolves and will go up against third-year point guard D.J. Augustin.
Augustin won the point-guard battle between himself and Raymond Felton last season thanks to his ability to penetrate and his outside shot. Augustin is not much of a defender due to his size and struggles to finish around the hoop, as he had the league's third-worst percentage from inside the arc last season.
The question needs to be asked, however: is D.J. Augustin any better than either of the healthy point guards on the Timberwolves' roster? Have you ever been impressed by a single thing that D.J. Augustin has done with Charlotte or back with the Longhorns? Augustin is an extremely mediocre, forgettable player who will soon be the poor man's Bassy Telfair, but without the Outside the Lines documentary.
Winner: Sebastian Telfair
The Wolves did not win their 4th game of the season in the 2009-2010 until December 14th, 2009, against the Utah Jazz. They have a chance to go to 4-8 this year in the second game of a back-to-back. The Bobcats had a nice year of overachieving last season and made the playoffs, but midnight always strikes for Cinderellas, and its time to go back to being the league's doormat.
Minnesota wins in a rout.