In honor of Thanksgiving, the Timberwolves take on the turkeys known as the San Antonio Spurs tonight at Target Center.
Minnesota Timberwolves (4-11) vs. San Antonio Spurs (12-1) at Target Center
As Wolves fans, there is a lot to be thankful for this year. Last year at this time, the Timberwolves were 1-13 and had 9 double-digit losses in 14 games, including a 41-point shalacking from the Golden State Warriors. Our hopes for the future were tied to Jonny Flynn, Wayne Ellington, Corey Brewer, Al Jefferson and Ricky Rubio, assuming he wanted to come over to the team.
This year, much has changed. Our record is significantly better, we are competitive in almost every game and we have players who actually inspire confidence about the future. After months of being disparaged by national NBA writers like Bill Simmons and national hack writers like John Hollinger, the Wolves have started to receive positive attention in the press. Instead of turkey this year, a lot of those same writers are feasting on a steady diet of crow.
Tonight, we face a San Antonio Spurs team who has won 11 games in a row and whose only loss came the day before Halloween to the 11-2 New Orleans Hornets. Once again, national pundits are writing off the Wolves, and once again, the Wolves are going to shock the world.
Let's break down the matchups:
Tim Duncan explains that he has never committed a foul in his life and that all calls against him are part of a conspiracy against small-market NBA teams.
Darko Milicic vs. Tim Duncan
I'll admit it. Every October, when I'm looking at the home schedule for the upcoming season, there are a few players that I'm more excited to see than others. LeBron. Kobe. Durant. Nash. D12. Blake Griffin just got added. Tim Duncan is near the top of that list. When it comes to fundamental basketball, there are few players who do it better and more consistently than Duncan. He's the second best power forward of All-Time (next to our own Kevin Love) and the margin between number two and number three (Charles Barkley) isn't close.
That being said, Duncan finds himself matched up tonight against the rejuvenated Darko Milicic. Darko is having his best stretch as a pro and is causing players and front office staff around the NBA to notice that Darko is one of the best centers in the league.
While you would think this kind of play would cause Timberwolves' fans to be ecstatic, there are some who still doubt that Darko is any good at all. While these people have been rightly reported to the NBA and the NSA for subversive behavior, it is concerning to me that after finally getting a defensive-minded center who is showing signs of breaking through, some "fans" still feel the need to poke, prod and destroy that positivity with stats from Orlando, New York and Detroit.
Tim Duncan is going to find out first hand how much improvement Darko has made in his game. Instead of hating on the man, let's take the time to be thankful that he is finally starting to realize some his potential and has the chance to be the best true center in Timberwolves' history.
Winner: Darko Milicic
"When is this game going to end? I'm hungry!"
Kevin Love vs. DeJuan Blair
At a combined 530 pounds, there are few people on this planet who enjoy the holiday of Thanksgiving as much as Kevin Love and DeJuan Blair. In fact, I've heard that in order to get Love properly motivated to rebound, Kurt Rambis confiscates the game ball and rubs bacon grease over it prior to tip-off. Perhaps Gregg Popovich does the same with Blair in San Antonio, I'm not sure.
Kevin Love had a much better performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday than he did against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday and he is looking to carry that momentum into tonight's game. Going against Blair could be a nice test for Love, since Blair is also one of the best rebounders (especially on the offensive glass) in the league. Despite having no ACLs, no post moves and no jump shot, Blair has cracked the starting lineup for the Spurs in his second year as a pro, mostly based on his hustle.
So, do I think Blair stands a chance against Love tonight? Please, you should be embarrassed for even thinking of the question. DeJuan Blair is like light mayonnaise (this is the only time 'DeJuan Blair' and 'light' will be in the same sentence together). It's not an adequate substitute. It just leaves people wanting the real thing.
Winner: Kevin Love
We're used to overrated and overpaid players named 'Jefferson' around these parts.
I'm trying to think of what the real world equivalent would be of offering someone like Richard Jefferson more than 8 million dollars per year to play basketball. Paying $100 an hour to a gardener who is allergic to pollen and grass? Giving $100,000 a year for a pastry chef who has Celiac's disease? Giving a $20 million dollar bonus to Richard Fuld after driving Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy?
Either way, when I'm 50, I'm turning senial and I have no more feeling in my fingers thanks to carpal tunnel syndrome, I hope someone offers me $8 million a year to write sports articles. I'll make sure to thank guys like Richard Jefferson who paved the way for my windfall.
Michael Beasley, on the other hand, is probably the lowest paid player in the NBA. At $4.9 million, he is making a little more than half what Jefferson will get this season. Meanwhile, he is carrying the offensive load for one of the best teams in the Western Conference, is leading all players in All-Star voting (unofficial tally) and has even garnered a few MVP votes from local sports writers.
For now, I'll just let the man speak for himself:
"The reason I do the same thing is because they can't stop it. As soon as they stop it, I'll do something else."
Winner: Michael Beasley
"I can't believe Bristol Palin lost on Dancing With the Stars last night. Darn you, Lamestream Media!"
The lefty Argentine Manu Ginobili is one of the league's most explosive players in the league who is able to finish at the rim and is also shooting 40% from downtown. At the age of 33, however, Manu is reaching the age where it is not crazy to wonder how long he will be able to keep up this level of play. Despite being one of the more injury-prone players in the league and the subject of many trade rumors in the offseason, Manu has played 32 minutes a game in all 13 games so far for the Spurs.
Tonight, he matches up with Wesley Johnson, who is already the best backcourt defender on the Timberwolves. While Wes can be a little passive on the offensive end, he is disruptive and blanketing on the defensive end and will likely cause Manu trouble with his length and quickness.
If Manu knows what is good for him, he should fake an ankle injury as soon as possible so he does not have to go through the humiliation of being shut down. If he could somehow fake the injury after the pre-game introductions, that would probably be his best case scenario. Maybe he could even do it after stepping off of the team bus. After all, I'm sure he's been injured that way before.
Wes wins this one easy.
Winner: Wesley Johnson
Will Tony Parker play as well with so many off-the-court distractions? I'm talking, of course, about the release of Tony's favorite movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Luke Ridnour vs. Tony Parker
Although it has not been confirmed by head coach Kurt Rambis, I'm giving Luke Ridnour the starting nod in tonight's matchup, since he has been playing better basketball than Sebastian Telfair over the past couple of games. Since Jonny Flynn is headed down for a AAA rehab stint, Ridnour should figure to be the starter for at least the next few weeks.
Tony Parker, meanwhile, is quietly having one of the best seasons of his career. Given all of his off-the-court drama, perhaps Parker is channeling all of his energies into his on-the-court performance. Parker is shooting 55% from the floor while averaging 19.5 points and 7.8 assists per game. He has also made all three of his 3-point attemps this season.
So how do we slow down Mr. Parker? My advice is to place call to #4 and have Brett come talk to Tony Parker about the dangers of sexting while married. Because if anyone knows how to ruin a team's progress, it's Brett Favre. After Brett has thoroughly demolished Tony's self-esteem and will-to-live like he has done to Vikings fans this season, Luke and Bassy will have no problem defeating what is left.
Winner: Luke Ridnour
"Nice try, Duncan. That win streak is coming to an end."
Before sitting down tomorrow for turkey, stuffing, potatoes and all of the great fixings at Thanksgiving dinner, I'm looking forward to Wolves ending the Spurs' winning streak at 11 games. It will be like the first Thanksgiving, when the Pilgrims sat down with the Native Americans...and then proceeded to nearly wipe those Native Americans completely off of the continent.
My Prediction: Timberwolves 88 - San Antonio Spurs 84
Timberwolves' record: Undefeated (5-11, if you go by so-called "Advanced Stats")
On a final note, I'd like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone here at Canis Hoopus. If you're traveling, especially around Minnesota with the bad winter storm we're supposed to receive, I hope you stay safe. Trust me, this fan base still needs every person it can get. Whatever your plans are - whether with friends, family or by yourself - have a great holiday weekend and I'll be back to preview the Warriors-Wolves game on Saturday night.