Heat at Wolves
7:00 pm CDT
The Heat probably represent the stiffest challenge on the young season for the Wolves. They come in to this one with a 2-2 record, with wins over the Hornets and Rockets and losses to top tier teams the Cavaliers and Hawks.
Dwyane Wade seems to have his legs early this season and is averaging 21 points a night in under 30 minutes, making his shots and getting to line, as well as averaging nearly 5 assists a night. In other words, he is back to driving the Heat offense, and while he left the game against the Hawks with a possible migraine, he is expected to be ready to go tonight, and will be a fantastic match up for Andrew Wiggins, who likely gets the initial assignment. It will be a huge challenge for him against one of the great wing scorers in the history of the league.
The other intriguing match up will be Karl-Anthony Towns against Hassan Whiteside, who has been playing terrific basketball once again this season after resurrecting his career last season in Miami. He's starting, playing 30 minutes a game and averaging 18/13/4 per 36 minutes. How the Wolves and Towns approach getting him shots against the defensive menace that is Whiteside will be fascinating. Do they pull Towns out to the perimeter for jumpers and dribble drives? It will be Towns' toughest assignment yet, and will be the one I keep my eye on closest.
Meanwhile, Chris Bosh is off to a very poor start to the year shooting the ball, as he's under 40% from the field, both in 2PA and 3PA, and not getting to the line. I suspect it's just a shooting slump, as he continues to rebound the ball and do other things, but right now his shot is off.
The Heat have been playing at a rather slow pace this year, as might be expected given their veteran lineup, but usually get good shots are among the league leaders in efg%, despite being a mediocre three point shooting team. On the other hand, they are a poor offensive rebounding club, so hopefully that Wolves weakness will not be exploited tonight.
For the Wolves, they need better play from their bench guys who, outside of Kevin Martin, have generally struggled. Nemanja Bjelica needs to be much more aggressive looking for his own shots, and Shabazz Muhammad has to get back to the relentless scorer he was last season before his injury. It will be interesting to see how long Mitchell continues with the rotations he's been using if the 2nd unit continues to struggle.
Rookie Watch: Justise Winslow has been coming off the bench for 24 minutes a night. He's struggled shooting it, and turns it over way too much for a guy with a low (12%) usage rate, but he's been effective on the defensive glass and done a good job defensively overall. At this point he's not much of a threat to score or create shots in the half court, but will fight for his minutes with hustle and effort.
Overall this should be a good test for the Wolves; a veteran tea that should be in the Eastern Conference playoffs this season, They are laden with veterans and look prepared to return to the playoffs. After Sunday's loss to the Blazers, no doubt the Wolves want to head out on the road with a better taste in their mouths. A win over the Heat in front of the Target Center crowd would help to validate a good star to the season and send them out on the road at 3-1.
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