Tim's Game Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves (25-35) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (43-16) at Target Center

"It can't get any worse, man," said J.J. Barea after Thursday night's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. "It can't get any worse."

"Don't say it can't get any worse, because it can." Flip Saunders earlier this year, when he was still coach of the Washington Wizards.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have lost 8 in a row and only have 6 games left, starting with tonight against Oklahoma City, to prevent another winless April. Kevin Love, who had 51 points in his last game against the Thunder on March 23rd, will once against be out after suffering a concussion earlier this week.

Whether Love plays again this season remains to be seen, but it hardly seems worth taking the risk when the Wolves have nothing left to play for except pride. Tonight will be another opportunity for guys like Derrick Williams and Malcolm Lee to prove themselves.

Nikola Pekovic actually dislikes the "Godfather" nickname and did not like the "Where in the World is Nikola Pekovic?" video either. Apparently, Nikola Pekovic-based humor isn't for everyone.

Projected Starting Lineups

C: Nikola Pekovic vs. Kendrick Perkins
PF: Derrick Williams vs. Serge Ibaka
SF: Wesley Johnson vs. Kevin Durant
SG: Martell Webster vs. Thabo Sefolosha
PG: J.J. Barea vs. Russell Westbrook

While Kevin Durant is a great player and definitely the fan favorite, it is hard to find a legitimate argument that he should he deserves the MVP award over LeBron James.

Last 5 Games

Minnesota Timberwolves (5th in Northwest, 18 1/2 behind OKC; 12th in West, 7 1/2 behind DEN)

Wed, Apr 4: Loss vs. Golden state 94-97
Sat, Apr 7: Loss at New Orleans 90-99
Mon, Apr 9: Loss vs. Phoenix 90-114
Wed, Apr 11: Loss at Denver 107-113
Thu, Apr 12: Loss vs. LA Clippers 92-95

Oklahoma City Thunder (1st in Northwest, 11 ahead of DEN; 1st in West, 1 ahead of SAS)

Fri, Apr 6: Loss at Indiana 98-103
Sun, Apr 8: Win vs. Toronto 91-75
Mon, Apr 9: Win at Milwaukee 109-89
Wed, Apr 11: Loss vs. LA Clippers 98-100
Fri, Apr 13: Win vs. Sacramento 115-89

Maybe this compressed schedule wasn't such a great idea after all...

Injuries

Minnesota Timberwolves

Wayne Ellington - Questionable with back spams

Kevin Love - Out indefinitely after suffering a concussion against Denver on Wednesday night

Darko Milcic - Out indefinitely with a strained right hamstring

Luke Ridnour - Out indefinitely with a sprained right ankle

Ricky Rubio - Out for the season after left knee surgery

Oklahoma City Thunder

James Harden - Questionable with a sore right knee

Eric Maynor - Out for the season after right knee surgery

Utah's remaining 6 games include road games in Memphis and Portland, and home games against Dallas, Orlando, Phoenix and Portland.

Utah Watch

The Utah Jazz lost at New Orleans last night, 85-96, which drops them to 1 1/2 games behind Denver for the 8th seed. Phoenix is 1/2 game ahead of Utah in 9th.

Utah plays tonight at Memphis, Phoenix plays at San Antonio and Denver has the night off.

The leading "Most Improved Player" candidates this season?

Noteworthy Stats

  • After scoring in double figures just 12 times during his rookie season, Nikola Pekovic has had 30 double-figure scoring efforts this season
  • Wesley Johnson has had 33 blocks in his last 32 games
  • When the Thunder shoot 50% or better, they are 17-0 this season and 26-15 when they shoot under 50%
  • Lazar Hayward has played in 24 games this season with the Thunder, averaging 9.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.1 turnovers per-36, along with .342 shooting (.286 from 3) and a -0.029 WS/48
  • The Wolves are 0-5 this season when J.J. Barea is in the starting lineup. In Barea's career, he has had 50 career starts and has an overall record of 31-19 (31-14 with the Mavericks)
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