Wolves vs. Heat
6:30 pm CDT
KFC Yum! Center, Louisville, Kentucky
No Television Broadcast
The Wolves are on the road tonight to take on the Miami Heat in a rematch of the Wolves’ first pre-season game last Saturday. Although this is listed as a “road” game, I anticipate that the local fans will turn out to cheer largely for the Timberwolves’ two Kentucky product big men: Karl Anthony Towns (University of Kentucky) and Gorgui Dieng (University of Louisville and a key part of their 2013 NCAA championship team). The people of Kentucky really cherish their college basketball stars.
In the first matchup against the Heat, coach Tom Thibodeau used only a 10-man rotation with a starting five of Rubio/LaVine/Wiggins/Dieng/Towns and a bench unit of Dunn/Rush/Muhammad/Bjelica/Aldrich. The minutes were also evenly distributed across the board in that game, with each of those 10 players seeing between 21 and 28 minutes of floor time. The shorter rotation worked well, as the Wolves walked away with a 109-100 win and every player posting a positive +/- in the box score.
Since that first pre-season game, Thibs has extended the rotations a little bit with minutes given to Tyus Jones, Adreian Payne, Jordan Hill, and even short stints for camp invites Toure’ Murry, John Lucas III, and Rasual Butler. I would expect to see the rotations continue to lengthen tonight, in large part because the Wolves hit the road again for a short-rest game tomorrow night against Oklahoma City which will be their fifth game in eight days.
Although these pre-season exhibitions are ultimately meaningless, there are a few apparent trends in the style of play that I think are keys to watch for as we get closer to the regular season.
In my opinion, the biggest takeaway of the pre-season so far has been the team three-point shooting. Over the first three games, the wolves have attempted 68 three-pointers and converted on 38 percent of those. If you’re keeping score, that’s an average of over 22 attempts per game, which is a significant uptick form last season’s 16.4 attempts per game, good for 29th in the League. Hopefully the deep balls continue to fly, because I genuinely believe that an emphasis on creating shots behind the arc is going to be a major factor in the Wolves’ hopes at making the post-season.
Another pleasant feature of the games so far has been the presence of more deliberate ball movement in the half court. Over the last few seasons, the Wolves have too often been frustrating to watch once the ball got out of Ricky Rubio’s hands, as that would frequently lead to a stoppage of motion and a lot of bad mid-range jumpers. In a small sample size, Thibs appears to have the offense focused on more ball movement, high screens, dribble hand-offs, screen-and-cuts, and perimeter passing - the types of things indicative of a half court offense hunting for mismatches and high percentage shots instead of dribbling out the shot clock and chucking long 2s. As the roster develops more chemistry, we can hope to see even more of an intentional “flow” from the offense.
Other than that, the key matchup in the game is of course going to be the Wolves’ bigs doing what they can to contain Hassan Whiteside, who managed 17 points on 7-10 shooting, 12 rebounds, and three blocks in last week’s game. It is a team effort to minimize the damage Whiteside can do in the post and on the glass.
The Canis team will be back after the game with a recap, and hopefully some video highlights. Our own profcedar, aka David Naylor, made the drive to be there in person, so watch for his analysis.
In the meantime, this is an open game thread. Go Wolves! Nobody get hurt!