Thunder at Wolves
7:00 pm CST
The Thunder come in at 9-13, having won 6 of their last 7 as they have gotten their stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook back from injury.
They are on the 2nd night of a back to back after winning in Cleveland last night while the Cavs rested LeBron James. Kevin Durant's minutes have been limited to around 30 a night since his return, and given that they played yesterday, it's unlikely that he'll see an uptick tonight, which is a good thing for the Wolves. He hasn't been shooting it all that well from beyond the arc since his return, but his two point shooting and ability to get to the line seem as good as ever.
Meanwhile, Westbrook has been a beast since his return, featuring an insane 39% usage rate while making over 50% of his 2PAs, getting to the line, piling up the rebounds and assists, and basically dominating proceedings.
The Thunder have stayed afloat with a strong defense (6th in the league) buoyed by the 3rd best efg% against in the NBA. Serge Ibaka leads the charge on that end, protecting the rim with 2.5 blocks per 36. It will be interesting to see if Shabazz Muhammad can get his shots off inside against the Thunder interior defense; he struggled a bit against the length of Portland the other night.
The Thunder do tend to turn the ball over quite a bit--Durant and Westbrook alone account for over 9 turnovers per 36, and the team as whole is 25th in TO%. The Wolves will have to take advantage of this like they did against the Blazers if they want to compete tonight. They will have to force live ball turnovers and get out in transition, because playing a half court game with this talent discrepancy is not going to work.
Tough match ups for the Wolves' two rookies in the starting lineup. Presumably Andrew Wiggins will get first crack at Kevin Durant, the best scorer in the NBA. Will Wiggins be able to use his length to bother the lengthiest small forward in the league? Will he be able to maintain discipline in the face of Durant's multitude of moves? In truth, there's no shame if he can't...Durant won an MVP and multiple scoring titles because basically nobody in the league can deal with him.
Meanwhile, Zach LaVine against Russell Westbrook...yikes. Good luck Zach if you draw this match up (they might cross-match with Brewer getting this unenviable assignment). It's hard to see Westbrook not just overpowering whoever the Wolves put on him, as his aggressive power moves to the basket have been devastating everyone. This is going to be tough.
Another one to watch is Steven Adams vs. Gorgui Dieng. Adams is a guy the Wolves could have drafted prior to the trade at the 2013 draft, and has emerged as the starting center for a quality team. Meanwhile, Dieng has been a pleasant surprise for the Wolves as well. Adams is much younger and probably a stronger defensive player, but Dieng has shown a more refined offensive game (though it would be nice to see him get the ball a little more).
Anywho, the Wolves will be looking for their 2nd win in a row, while the Thunder will try to maintain their momentum as they try to get back into the playoff picture. Hopefully it's a fun one.
Here is a link to our blogging buddies over at Welcome to Loud City. Be excellent.
No, no and no.
Enjoy the game. Chat here. Go Wolves.