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Game #38: Mavericks vs. Wolves Preview

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The two worst teams in the Western Conference duke it out. Get excited!

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t really know how to do these previews anymore.

I could go in-depth and break down the strengths and weaknesses of the Dallas Mavericks and provide an assessment as to what the Minnesota Timberwolves need to do to get a win. But I’m not even sure it’s worth the work, because the Wolves keep finding utterly catastrophic ways to lose.

It doesn’t really matter if they outperform their opponent and do what they are supposed to do for 40 minutes. Those other eight minutes will surely kill any hopes and dreams they had of prevailing.

It’s been the same exact story so many times this season, and it’s not even February yet. Aside from a small increment of the game, the Wolves usually outplay their opponent and put themselves in a position to win. It’s just those five, eight or ten minute stretches — usually in the second half — where everything falls apart and the opposition takes advantage.

It’s mind-boggling, really. I’ve used advanced stats and film to preview these games. I’ve been right and I’ve been wrong in my assessments of previous opponents. But at this point, none of that really even matters.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau has preached relentlessly about competing for a full 48 minutes. Minnesota has done so only sparingly this season and not doing so has almost guaranteed a tally in the loss column (and no playoffs, again).

The analysis of opponents is hardly worth it until the Wolves can show they are capable of providing consistent effort and competency — especially on defense — for an entire game.

And again, this gets old but it’s also true: youth is still a huge factor in these second half collapses. It’s taking a long time for the “Baby Big 3” to learn how to close out games and execute consistently without tensing up in crunch time.

The hilarious thing about all of this is the Wolves are still four (!) games back from the eighth seed in the Western Conference. That’s obviously not a tiny gap but it does show the big drop-off after Oklahoma City (and also makes me wonder how different this season could be without a handful of the collapses).

via NBA.com

In any case, a lot of games remain and the Wolves have an excellent opportunity to get their first win in 2017 against a team that shares the worst record in the conference.

Dallas has shot 43 percent from the field this season, good for 29th in the NBA. Their net rating of -5.3 is 28th in the NBA, compared to Minnesota’s 18th rank at -2.0.

I would love to say this is a game the Wolves should win but they have done nothing to inspire such confidence. There’s really no excuse to lose to an 11-26 team at home, aside from...Wolves. We all know how many games they should have won.

Regardless, the opportunity is there for the Wolves to get back in the win column.

Expected Starting Lineups

Timberwolves

PG - Ricky Rubio: 7.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 7.1 APG, 37.8% FG, 27.3% 3pt FG

SG - Zach LaVine: 20.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.1 APG, 47% FG, 41.2% 3pt FG

SF - Andrew Wiggins: 22.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.4 APG, 44.2% FG, 34.8% 3pt FG

PF - Gorgui Dieng: 10.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, 51.9% FG, 35.1% 3pt FG

C - Karl-Anthony Towns: 21.4 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 2.9 APG, 47.2% FG, 30.9% 3pt FG

Injuries: Nikola Pekovic is out (achilles).

Mavericks

PG - Deron Williams: 13.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 6.8 APG, 41.5% FG, 31.5% 3pt FG

SG - Wesley Matthews: 15.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 38.6% FG, 37.6% 3pt FG

SF - Harrison Barnes: 20.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, 47.3% FG, 34.2% 3pt FG

PF - Dirk Nowitzki: 11.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.4 APG, 37.6% FG, 30.4% 3pt FG

C - Andrew Bogut: 3.1 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 44.9% FG, 0.0% 3pt FG

Injuries: NONE

Four Factors

As we always do in game previews, let’s take a look at how the Wolves and Mavericks match up using the Four Factors. Reminder, the Four Factors are effective field goal percentage (eFG%), turnover percentage (TOV%), offensive rebounding percentage (ORB%), and free throw rate (FTR).

factor / Wolves / Mavericks

eFG% / 50.1 / 49.4

TOV% / 15.1 / 13.2

ORB% / 27.9 / 19.1

FTR / .282 / .217

It’s not difficult to figure out why the Mavericks are struggling this season. Dallas is ranked 24th or worse in three of the four factors, including 29th in ORB% and 30th in FTR. Meanwhile, Minnesota comes in at third in ORB% and 11th in FTR.

Another “should win” game for the Wolves. An identical performance from Monday’s loss against Utah will likely net a win for the pups, though I’m not terribly confident given what we have seen.

Prediction: Wolves 105, Mavericks 101