Sixers at Wolves
7:00 pm CST
Let's get this out of the way: Last season, the Sixers came into Target Center winless, 0-17, and walked out with their first win of the year, an 85-77 crapfest that was one of the ugliest moments in a truly ugly season.
Let's not have that again. The Wolves are, of course, a better team now, and the Sixers are, if anything, worse. They are coming off one of their best performances of the season in Miami on Saturday, when they built a 15 point halftime lead, hung on through much of the 2nd half, but ultimately succumbed to a late Heat run and lost 96-91. They remain the worst offensive team in the league, and while last season they played a scrappy and reasonably effective brand of defense, this season they have collapsed on that side of the ball as well.
Much of their offense involves getting the ball to their rookie center, Jahlil Okafor, who, to his credit, has managed to score a bunch of points. The problem is that because a) they don't have many other offensive options, and b) he's a rookie carrying a 27% usage rate, he hasn't been all that efficient, with an efg% and TS% both below 50%. Still, he's been quite impressive for a big man in his first 14 games of the season, and his match up with the Wolves' Karl-Anthony Towns is the interesting one to watch.
Towns, of course, has been the best rookie in the class so far and has flashed his all-around game--scoring, defending, rebounding, and making the Wolves a significantly better squad. He and Okafor were seen for much of last season as the two most likely players to be chosen first in the draft. Ultimately, due to Towns' versatility and negative perceptions about Okafor's defense, Towns emerged as the consensus guy, and Okafor dropped to third. Right now, it appears both of them have bright futures in the NBA, and I'm looking forward to seeing them play each other tonight.
I could go on for a while about all the areas in which the Sixers struggle, but suffice it to say they range from mediocre to horrific in all areas. The Wolves need to go out and control this one from the beginning, and keep control, unlike the Pistons debacle. They have to get a home win and put that to rest so they can focus on playing more consistent basketball.
Sam Mitchell announced on Sunday that Kevin Martin will start in place of Tayshaun Prince in order to get more offense into the lineup, and that he is going to try to increase Shabazz Muhammad's playing time as well. This is not quite the change I would advocate, but it might help. It still leaves the 2nd unit without anyone to really facilitate an NBA offense, but perhaps Martin can get out of the slump he's been in.
Tonight will be the first time in nearly three weeks that the Wolves will be playing with more than one day off; hopefully that helps as they have looked tired at times over the last few games.
Our blogging buddies for the evening are over at the excellent Liberty Ballers. Be excellent. Don't bait them about "The Process."
No no and no.
Enjoy the game. Chat here. Go Wolves.