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Timberwolves at Thunder: Division Battles

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The Wolves get a look at another revamped division rival tonight in Oklahoma City.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves at Thunder
6:00 pm CDT
FS North

The Thunder, Jazz and Timberwolves have been playing a little round-robin in the early days of the season. The Wolves beat the Jazz for their first win of the year on Friday, and then the Jazz beat the Thunder in Utah last night. Tonight, the Wolves visit the Thunder looking for their first road win of the season and second in a row overall.

The Thunder, of course, are trying to integrate two new star players in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, to go along with reigning MVP Russell Westbrook. Westbrook has been much more passive offensively to start the year as he tries to feed George and Anthony shots. Last night, he finished with only six points (though shooting 2-11 was a big part of that) and seemed almost invisible against a good Jazz defense. Despite adding scorers during the summer, the Thunder still need Russ to, well, Russ.

In truth, their ugly performance last night, in which none of their three stars were efficient, makes me a little nervous for tonight; regardless of the gelling they need to do, it’s hard to see a second straight awful shooting effort.

The Thunder remain strong on the glass, and the Wolves need to focus on not allowing second chance points, as well as taking care of the ball. The Thunder have several long, quick players with active hands, and live ball turnovers are killers.

Of course the Wolves are experiencing their own growing pains, trying to mesh together some holdovers with several new faces. So far, Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague have struggled a bit to find their offense, something we can assume will come at some point. Meanwhile, Andrew Wiggins has (like last year) started hot from beyond the arc. Karl-Anthony Towns seems perhaps not quite in the best shape, and hasn’t found the range from the perimeter, but he’s still putting up decent numbers. Nemanja Bjelica and Jamal Crawford have been huge off the bench for the Wolves.

I thought they looked somewhat better defensively against Utah than they did in the opener against the Spurs, but it’s clear that side of the ball is also a work in progress. While the Thunder have not been running much complicated stuff, they have the talent to make defending them a real challenge.

Let’s hope the Wolves are up for it.

Expected Lineups

Thunder

Russell Westbrook
Andre Roberson
Paul George
Carmelo Anthony
Steven Adams

Wolves

Jeff Teague
Andrew Wiggins
Jimmy Butler
Taj GIbson
Karl-Anthony Towns

Our blogging buddies are over at Welcome to Loud City. Be excellent.

Enjoy the game. Chat here. Go Wolves.