Minnesota Timberwolves (6-17) vs. Chicago Bulls (13-8) at the United Center
The Timberwolves are getting into the Christmas spirit. After donating a bright and sparkly beat down to the Detroit Pistons last night, the Wolves have gone to Chicago to spread some more holiday cheer. The Bulls are a popular pick as a team that could challenge the Celtics and Heat in the East. I don't understand what all the fuss is about. In the last ten seasons, the Bulls have won fewer playoff series than the Timberwolves and have won the exact same number of NBA championships.
Derrick Rose has become a media favorite and Joakim Noah had 15 minutes of fame for calling Kevin Garnett ugly. But if you ask me, I think the Bulls are likely to fall short in another first round series, where they will be lauded for their "competitive play" - just like they were after losing to Cleveland and Boston in the opening round the last two years.
Minnesota, meanwhile, is not building a one-and-done team. We're building a contender. We're building a champion. We're building a dynasty. And to the haters: there's plenty of room on the bandwagon right now, but seats are filling up quick, so I'd reserve your spot now.
Let's break down tonight's matchups:
I'll say this: it's hard to gameplan for a guy who is most likely a cartoon character.
Darko Milicic vs. Joakim Noah
Joakim Noah is supposed to be a good defender. While the guy can rebound a little and can occasionally brush the hair out of face long enough to put the ball in the hoop, defense is supposed to be this guy's calling card.
So why hasn't this guy had a blocked shot in over 3 games? Why did Pau Gasol dominate him last night and why did Anderson Varejao do the same in the previous game? Don't try telling me that he's having trouble adjusting to Carlos Boozer. I think its clear at this point that Noah is already on the decline as a player. After all, he's 25 years old now, and all the major stat guys agree that its impossible to improve or change after the age of 25.
Darko, meanwhile, had 7 blocks last night and would have had more, but the refs had the audacity to blow their whistles on at least three of them. And that was only his first game back after a quad injury. Sure, Darko is 25, too. But the 25-year age rule only applies to people born on this planet, not Manna from Heaven.
Winner: Darko Milicic
Kevin Love vs. Carlos Boozer
This matchup is so lopsided its almost not fair to write it. Kevin Love, the master of the boards. Mr. 30/30. The guy who has more 20-20 games this season than every other player combined. Against Carlos Boozer, the guy who is proving that the requirement for playing the power forward position in Utah is "be tall and set picks for the point guard". The only boards Boozer is going to be grabbing tonight are floorboards after Love has put another tip-in back in his grill.
Some people tried to tell me after my last preview that Love is not the best power forward in the game. Really? Who is better? Pau? No verdad. Dirk? Das stimmt nicht. Carlos Boozer? Otnay Ruetay. Love deserves not only a coach's selection into the All-Star Game, but deserves to be voted in as a starter by the fans.
And if you think differently, you might want to look in the mirror and ask yourself "why"? Racism? Hatred of all things cool? Rebellion against a parent or authority figure who also likes Kevin Love? It's times like these when you need to be honest with yourself.
Winner: Kevin Love
In my daily life, I try to not to curse. It's difficult, though, especially during Vikings and Twins games. Fortunately, to kick this habit, I've started replacing my actual curse words with "Luol Deng". When the dog urinates on the rug? "Luol Deng!" When a car cuts me off on the highway? "Luol Deng, what's your problem?!" Issues at work? "I don't give a Luol Deng about what you need right now!"
You get the picture. Try it sometime. It's the most use that anyone has ever gotten out of Luol Deng in his career.
Michael Beasley, B Easy, Skilttles, The Great Eight, Buckets...take your pick, if you're a fan of an opposing team, you might as well call him "the guy who is beating us". Beasley only had 12 points and 7 rebounds last night in 25 minutes of play, but its widely known that Beasley does not have two bad games in a row. It's impossible. So, tonight, I'm thinking he'll go for 30 and 15. Sounds about right to me.
Winner: Michael Beasley
Keith Bogans is the starting shooting guard for the Bulls? Seriously? Did he win a contest or something?
Wesley Johnson vs. Keith Bogans
Number of people in Minnesota who think Keith Bogans is a dentist, not an NBA player: 2,345.
Number of people in Chicago who could've told you that Bogans was a starter for the Bulls: 9.
Even Derrick Rose looked at this guy in pre-game warmups and thought he was a season ticket holder who had been invited down onto the court or something. Well, apparently, its true. Keith Bogans is an NBA player. He's shooting 38% from the floor and 60% from the foul line, while averaging 4.1 points and 1.2 assists per game. Which wouldn't be bad if he were a dentist. But since Bogans is actually a professional basketball player, those numbers are pretty awful.
Wes Johnson, meanwhile, had a solid game last night against Detroit going 5-of-9 for 11 points while also grabbing 5 rebounds. He's slowly becoming a bigger weapon each time he steps onto the court. With Bogans guarding him tonight, let's just say that the safety should be in the 'off' position.
Winner: Wesley Johnson
" I never smile if I can help it. Showing one's teeth is a submission signal in primates. When someone smiles at me, all I see is a [Bull] begging for its life"
Luke Ridnour vs. Derrick Rose
I know that most people are going to say that Derrick Rose should win this matchup easily. After all, Rose is often mentioned in the "best point guard in the league" discussion, and after winning Rookie of the Year in 2009 and an All-Star appearance last year, his superstar status only continues to rise.
But people have been misunderestimating Luke Ridnour his entire career. Just when you think you're gonna get him, he'll drop 20 and 10 on you like its nothing. Derrick Rose has flash. He's got pizzaz. But there is a lot he doesn't have. He doesn't have an acceptance letter from the University of Oregon. He doesn't have an autographed Ray Allen SuperSonics jersey. He doesn't have a $5 off coupon for an oil change at Burnsville Jiffy Lube. Luke Ridnour has the most assists on the Timberwolves this season, while Derrick Rose isn't even in the top 10 in the "most assists by a Timberwolf" category.
When you add up these and other facts, its clear that Rose is really limited and that Ridnour is going to be the best point guard on the court tonight. When Rose gets a limited edition Oregon quarter, let me know.
Winner: Luke Ridnour
"Should I tell them that my defensive schemes only work with three Hall of Famers and Rajon Rondo? Naaaaaah."
By all accounts, the Wolves are favored in tonight's game by a substantial margin. The Bulls are going to try to pull off the substantial upset, but I don't see it happening. The Wolves are frankly too talented and have too much depth to lose to this kind of upstart team. The Bulls can take solace in the fact that, once again, they competed hard against a superior team, even if it didn't result in "winning".