Thunder at Wolves
7:00 pm CST
These two teams have seen quite a bit of each other recently, with tonight's tilt being their third match up in just over two weeks. During that stretch, the Thunder have won eight of nine, with a surprising loss in Brooklyn the other day being their only blemish. As we know, they took care of the Wolves twice, in a relatively close one in which the Wolves bench played surprisingly well here a couple of weeks ago, and then in a blowout in Oklahoma City a few days later.
Tonight will be the Wolves' best opportunity to get one against one of the top teams in the league. This will be the 4th game of a four game, six night road trip for the Thunder, who won an overtime game against the Knicks in New York last night. These are great conditions for a schedule loss (or win, in the case of the Wolves), especially since the Thunders' three best players--Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka--all went more than 43 minutes last night.
Still, it won't be easy, as the Thunder feature the 2nd best offense in the league, a defense that has moved up to 11th in recent weeks, and have the highest offensive rebounding percentage in the league, something that has regularly hurt the Wolves.
Since we saw them last, the Thunder have lost Andre Roberson for a few weeks due to a knee sprain suffered over the weekend. Roberson, who had started every game at the off-guard spot thanks to his excellent defense, was replaced in the starting lineup yesterday by Dion Waiters, a much more potent offensive player but not nearly the defender Roberson is. It will be interesting to see how the Thunder match up tonight, but putting Waiters on Andrew Wiggins would create a big opportunity for Wiggins given his size advantage in addition to Waiters' defensive deficiencies.
Of course, the Wolves have several match ups to concern themselves with. Russell Westbrook is very tough for anyone in the league; in both earlier games Sam Mitchell assigned Wiggins to that task, though I would try Rubio first and see how it goes. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant likewise causes problems for the whole league, and likely will for Tayshaun Prince, Wiggins, and anyone else that tries to guard him.
At any rate, the Wolves have looked more competitive over the last few games, and hopefully that's a trend that continues. They will need to be at their best if they want to have a chance to win this one, even over a tired Thunder team.
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