Wolves at Thunder
6:00 pm CST
The Wolves make a rare appearance on national television tonight against the Thunder in Oklahoma City as the first game of ESPN's Friday double-header (followed by Cavs-Rockets). Please note the early starting time.
These teams met on Monday at Target Center for the first time this season, and it looked like it was going to be the expected Thunder blow out, but the Wolves bench unit had a surprisingly strong second half and made the game close. Close enough to force the Thunder to return with their stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, in order to close them out, which they did behind a few bloodless Durant jumpers in the last few minutes of the game.
More or less the opposite of usual form, in that one it was the starters who struggled badly against the Thunder's superior talent, only to see the bench, led by Zach LaVine's best performance in weeks, and Shabazz Muhammad's aggressive offense get the Wolves back in the game in the 4th quarter.
(Did you know that of all 5 man lineups that have played 200 minutes or more, the Wolves starting lineup is 4th best in net rating? Better than the Clippers starting lineup. Twice as good as the Spurs starting lineup. Only behind the Thunder, Warriors, and Mavs starting lineups. Reducing it to 100 minutes to get a bigger sample, they are still 9th out of 65 such lineups, and 3 of the 8 ahead of them are Warriors lineups. Of course two of the worst 5 man lineups to play 100+ minutes are the Wolves starters with 1 change: either Dieng for Garnett or Martin for Prince).
At any rate, after that rambling aside, they are back at it again tonight, this time in Oklahoma City.
Having just seen the good (Westbrook, Durant, shooting, offensive rebounding) and the not so good (defense, bench) of the Thunder, there isn't much new to say. They are cruising along 3rd in the Western Conference with one of the best offenses in the league. In the first match up the Wolves actually did a nice job keeping them off the offensive glass where they lead the league, something they will have to do again tonight.
They also put Andrew Wiggins on Russell Westbrook while switching Ricky Rubio onto Andre Roberson. It..sort of worked, and I expect we'll see the same thing tonight, though I would try it the other way. Let Wiggins get his rest on the defensive end against Roberson, at least to start. Nobody can handle Westbrook, but I thought putting Rubio in a stationary position against Roberson didn't help his effectiveness. (Of course, Rubio's poor game that night is entirely on him, but I would have tried him on Westbrook first).
Our blogging buddies are over at Welcome to Loud City. Be excellent.