Dwight Howard brings his league-leading 12 technical fouls to Minnesota.
Minnesota Timberwolves (31-9) vs. Orlando Magic (25-14) at Target Center
We've reached the halfway point of the season for the Minnesota Timberwolves, and to celebrate the end of the first half, the Wolves are taking on the new-look Orlando Magic. The last time that these two teams played, the Wolves were trying to find an identity as a young team and were still missing Jonny Flynn, Martell Webster and Michael Beasley due to injury. The Magic, meanwhile, have turned over a good portion of their roster in an attempt to keep up with Miami and Boston in the Eastern Conference.
So throw out November's result. These are basically two different teams playing tonight. Let's break down the matchups and see how tonight's game is likely to go:
I hear that if you pull the string on the back of the Dwight Howard doll, it smiles, throws an elbow and then shouts profanities.
Darko Milicic vs. Dwight Howard
If you had to place a bet right now, would you bet that Dwight Howard's career goes the way of Hakeem Olajuwon (multiple titles, MVP award) or Patrick Ewing (no titles, no MVP)? Sure, the man has talent. He had a 39 point, 18 rebound game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night (in a loss). He has had trouble, however, leading his team to consistently compete with Boston and the L.A. Lakers. His one NBA Finals appearance seems more like the result of depleted competition than dominant basketball.
Darko Milicic already has a NBA championship ring, and unlike Howard's Magic, Darko's Pistons went through Kobe, Shaq, Karl Malone and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers to get it. Darko's already answered the question of "will he ever win the big one?" Now, the question is "how many will he win?"
Maybe someday, Dwight Howard can back up Darko and get a ring that way.
Winner: Darko Milicic
It's gonna take more than a little stretching to keep up with Kevin Love.
Kevin Love vs. Brandon Bass
In the first game between these two teams, Bass scored 19 points off of the bench on 6-of-7 shooting, while grabbing 8 rebounds, in only 24 minutes. He had a game high +36.
Do you know what Kevin Love thinks about a 19/8 game? He doesn't. Such low production doesn't even cross his radar. Some have called Love a human vacuum, picking up every rebound there is. If Love were a vacuum, he'd be one of those Dyson brands that costs as much as a car. If Bass were a vacuum, he'd be one of those $20 el cheapos where you have to empty the bag every five minutes. Love's 15.7 rebounds per game are the most since The Worm averaged 16.1 in 1996-1997 and more than anyone other than Rodman since Moses Malone at the end of the 1970s.
Bass' 5.5 rebounds are tied with Shelden Williams and Trevor Ariza. Yawn. Wake me up when get another double-double (Bass has only one this season).
Winner: Kevin Love
So, instead of just signing Hedo Turkoglu, Otis Smith let him walk and then traded for him about a year later? And David Kahn is supposed to be the dumb one?
Wesley Johnson vs. Hedo Turkoglu
Think of all of the GMs who lucked out because their team was terrible enough or lucky enough to get a low lottery pick. If the Magic take Emeka Okafor instead of Dwight Howard, Orlando is likely just another weak team in the Eastern Conference and Otis Smith probably doesn't have a job right now. Smith overpaid Rashard Lewis; balked at overpaying Hedo Turkoglu, who subsequently signed with Toronto; and then traded a couple of nice assets (Gortat, Pietrus) to get Turkoglu back.
If David Kahn made these kinds of moves - as well as other head scratchers such as overpaying JJ Redick and Jameer Nelson; matching Dallas' offer for Gortat to use him as a backup center, only to trade him; or signing Chris Duhon - he'd be ripped apart in the press. Otis Smith does it and no one says boo.
Anyhow, back to Hedo and Wes...Hedo is a lazy player who is past his prime and wasn't all that good even in his prime. He had a great 2008 playoffs and tricked people into thinking he was a great player.
For the Wolves, it looks as if Beasley is going to miss another game, so Wesley Johnson will get the start. Kurt Rambis said that he is unsure whether Beasley's ankle will ever be fully healthy again this season. Here's to hoping that Be Easy gets better soon.
Winner: Wesley Johnson
Corey Brewer vs. Jason Richardson
Although some still deny it, Corey Brewer has made his living this year on the defensive end of the court. When Wesley Matthews was going off, it was Brewer who shut him down in the second half. It was Corey Brewer who stifled Nick Young last game against the Wizards. And its Brewer who will shut down the Magic's Jason Richardson.
Brewer's biggest strength on defense is his ability to get around screens and stick with his opponent without giving up too much space for a catch-and-shoot. His second biggest strength is mugging his opponents without the ref noticing. Both work well and should be useful against Richardson tonight.
Anything Brewer adds on the offensive end is just gravy. A made basket from him is like finding $5 dollars in your pocket. Tonight, we might just make a couple of Andrew Jacksons.
Winner: Corey Brewer
The only way Jameer Nelson will be at the NBA Finals again is if he buys a ticket...or if he gets traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Luke Ridnour vs. Jameer Nelson
This should be called the "Battle of the Starters-Who-Should-Be-Backups" matchup. Sure, Ridnour is definitely good enough to start for most teams in the NBA. But he's ideally suited as a backup and will do so when Ricky Rubio descends onto the NBA next year. Nelson is not good enough to start for most teams in the NBA but might be a good backup if he played on the Raptors or Cavaliers.
Last game against the Washington Wizards, Ridnour had 16 points and 9 assists. It was the fourth game in a row where he scored at least 10 points and had at least 7 assists. He's become so good that Wolves fans are openly wishing for him to play 48 minutes a game, even at the risk of keeping Jonny Flynn on the bench for the entire game.
Winner: Luke Ridnour
Agent One doesn't have the same ring to it...
The Magic tried their own version of the "Quick Change" trick. Tonight, however, the Wolves will do them one better and make Superman disappear.
My Prediction: Timberwolves 102 - Orlando Magic 95
Timberwolves' Record: 32-9